Heavy-Hitting Anti-Obesity Campaign: Nasty or Necessary?

The building-size billboard features a patently plump child looking forlorn; underneath is the blunt caption, "It's hard to be a little girl when you're not."

The ad is part of an initiative launched in Georgia by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to 'Stop Childhood Obesity.' In Georgia, 40 percent of kids are obese or overweight, and children as young as first grade are frequently diagnosed with hypertension, according to the campaign.

One TV version of the ad features a chubby little boy asking his mom why he’s fat (the mom -- extremely stout herself -- doesn’t answer):


Another shows a heavy elementary school girl admitting that getting picked on at school because of her weight hurts her feelings: 



The spots end with a command: "Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia." To call the campaign controversial would be like saying water is wet. The campaign’s creators insist that the $50 million project will bring desperately needed attention to the "medical crisis" of obesity in this country, according to ABC News. "We knew [the ads] were going to be controversial," added Stormy Bradley, the mother of one of the commercial’s actors. "But from my point of view, it was necessary to spark a conversation."

Opponents call the campaign "an example of what not to do," and claim the commercials are shaming obese people, not their condition. "If kids feel bad about their bodies, they’re not going to take care of them," said Linda Bacon, PhD, a nutrition expert at City College of San Francisco. Whether or not the ads will have a positive impact remains to be seen (creators of a similar campaign to reduce methamphetamine use in the state of Montana claim their efforts reduced teen meth use by more than 50 percent.) One thing’s for sure: It’s a weighted topic -- and people are talking.

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