Seen the latest ads running on TV in Georgia that are spurring an awful lot of discussion? They were created in order to get "parents' attention." Well they seem to be getting everyone's attention! Some experts and consumers feel that the ads "shame kids" and their parents and families. They also feel that the ads don't offer any real, constructive help. Other experts feel that if you look at the ads through the point of view of public health management, you come away with an entirely different perspective. Childhood obesity is public enemy #1 (or it should be) and despite the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama and other health campaigns, it continues to be a front and center ongoing public health issue. It deserves to be said again that these kids will be part of the first generation to NOT outlive their parents, because of their girth and the associated health issues.
Georgia has the highest rate of "fat kids" in the nation. Georgia's new childhood obesity campaign was based on surveys of parents in the state, 50% of whom did not realize that childhood obesity was a problem, and 75% of whom did not realize that THEIR kids were overweight or obese. So these ads, which are quite provocative, might serve as a huge wake up call for many parents. And if they were not so controversial, then they might not achieve that goal. Painful ads get attention and talk, just what Georgia and other states seem to need in order to have a message start a strong conversation - especially among parents. So how is it possible for parents to not realize the state of health of their kids, especially when it comes to weight?
(1) If the parents themselves are overweight, they may not have the kind of education and tools that would enable recognition and action.
(2) If these kids are "the norm" in their state, then compared to other kids their age, their appearance is the new norm so they don't stick out.
(3) Parents want the best for their kids, but fear of dealing with difficult realities or a feeling that the health issues are just insurmountable can have parents in denial.
(4) The inability to know where to start, inadequate health insurance or finances can cause parents to simply ignore health realities despite their ominous tenure.
Are these ads too graphic and upsetting?
From my perspective, they are not. Fat kids are at risk of being bullied, they do feel that their weight interferes with a good quality of life, they don't know how to ask for help and they really do not want to hurt their parents by telling them these truths. I did conquer my own weight issue in my teens, but I would be lying if I said it does not continue to be a daily struggle. I still crave all those sweet and fattening foods that I learned to love and that "bandaged my soul" as a kid and teen when I was unhappy. Those tastes corrupted my palate and those behaviors became ingrained. I wish I had never been exposed to these food patterns and I wish that my mother had sought help for her own weight issues. I never spoke to her about my feelings but my decision to lose weight at age sixteen was met with resistance on her part. After all, my desire to not be like her was a huge "in your face" statement. It was clear that I was not happy as a mirror image (physically) of her girth and size. And though I took charge of my problem, I do, to an extent, blame her for contributing to my weight destiny as a child and teen. I know we all have the power to thwart our family legacy, but I am honest enough to admit that it's a battle I wish I could have avoided.
If there had been a campaign back then to alert the parent community to get help - for themselves and their kids - for ongoing weight issues, it might have helped my mom and me. We need to get through to parents with ads like these, but only if we can offer them reasonable, doable, affordable help and strategies. So that's the part of the equation we need to make sure is in place if we are to raise consciousness with ads like these.
What do you think about these ads??
Published On: January 12, 2012