Thursday, February 16, 2012

Anti-obesity advertisements open controversy

Columnist questions if Georgia campaign promotes health or stigma

By Paula McFadden, Opinion Columnist

Hospital officials at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have begun the fight against childhood obesity. The state of Georgia holds the nation’s second-highest childhood obesity rate with approximately 1 million children either overweight or obese, according to a BBC story by Kate Dailey.

The "Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia" campaign attempts to mimic the same advertising format as the anti-smoking and anti-methamphetamines campaigns. The issue is whether the advertisements actually produce healthier lifestyles or increase the stigma surrounding it.

One image on the National Public Radio’s website is of a young overweight girl with her arms folded in front of her. A banner at the bottom reads "Warning: it’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not."

Critics of the campaign believe that these ads discourage children from attempting to lose weight for fear of embarrassment and will be less likely to seek help.

Whether that is true or not, the campaign should focus more on statistical, medical facts to shed light on the issue rather than using images that could potentially lead to lower self-worth in children. A little girl is still a little girl no matter what weight she is. 

The ads are meant to shock parents into realizing that action needs to be taken, but the shock needs to extend to school board members and government officials. In order for this epidemic to end, the whole community needs to be involved.

The issue of obesity is not solely in the hands of the individual. It belongs to our society. In the 2010 article "Battling Obesity in America," CBS news journalist Seth Doane reported that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years and approximately 190 million Americans are overweight or obese.

It starts with education, which is where this campaign has the power to inspire change by raising awareness of both the immediate and long-term health effects of childhood obesity.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that overweight children are more likely to have pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other respiratory problems, which doubles the risk of death before the age of 55. The human body has a possible life span of 120 years and these findings indicate childhood obesity is decreasing it by more than half.

Despite the possible negative effects of "Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia," the group is at least making an effort to promote a healthier generation of Americans. Hopefully, the campaign will evolve and grow to meet the needs of millions of Americans.

Write to your state representative to let him or her know that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Work with a local healthcare official to create a similar campaign in Washington state. Educate friends and family. There are many ways for anyone to make a difference. and government officials. In order for this epidemic to end, the whole community needs to be involved.

Visit these websites for more information about how to change to a healthier lifestyle or help the fight against obesity.

Paula McFadden is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on-campus but calls Lakewood, Wash., home.Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on-campus but calls Lakewood, Wash., home.