Childhood obesity is a serious issue in the United States, especially in the African-American community — an estimated two million children suffer from it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 percent of African-American girls ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 19 percent of African-American boys in the same age group are overweight. In terms of Black teenagers, the numbers are almost the same. However, 22.4 percent of African-American children ages 6 to 17 are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30.
Since in most cases children are not in control of what they eat and how active they are, the burning question remains: What is the best way to reach parents and get them engaged in this crisis? How do you tell parents that their children are obese and overweight and get them to listen and believe you?
Last October, a Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatric hospital, decided to do something to address this issue. The Strong4Life's campaign, "Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia" is a series of PSAs and print ads featuring obese and overweight children. Using shocking and dreary imagery, one of the print ads features an African-American teenage girl looking very sad with the tagline, "My fat may be funny to you, but it's killing me."
In one of the television PSAs, a little African-American boy is talking about why he sits at home and plays video games by himself because he is tired of being picked on.
While these ads have been around for a few months, there has been a lot of controversy in the past few weeks since the mainstream media has gotten wind of the campaign. The Huffington Post reported that these ads have drawn a "mixed reaction." Some people have claimed that the ads place blame on innocent children; the language in the ads continues to stigmatize the same children who are continually being teased at school; and that these ads don't really empower or promote healthier lifestyles, just more guilt.
But Children's Healthcare of Atlanta defends their campaign, stating that parents need to know what they are doing to their children, because they appear to be clueless. A recent survey in Georgia found that 75 percent of parents with obese children were not aware that their children were overweight, while 50 percent of parents didn’t realize that childhood obesity was a problem to begin with. Meanwhile, Georgia comes in second next to Mississippi for child obesity rates.
Last October on The Wendy Williams Show, Star Jones discussed these ads, stating that she felt that parents need a wake-up call. She said, "As an obese adult, I needed to be scared straight myself. I needed to stop using kind words like 'thick, fluffy, chubby, plus size.' When you are morbidly obese, 300 pounds and 5'5" someone needs to say 'Baby, you are obese."
And while scare tactics have proven to work with smoking and certain drug use, given all the complexities around living a healthy lifestyle — access to nutritional food, money to buy healthier foods, certain cultural issues, lack of physical education in schools and health literacy — is this really the best way to approach this subject?
What do you think? Are these ads appropriate or offensive?
View the rest of the PSAs here.
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