Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obesity in the News

It's been a long time since we've done a "News That Ticks Panda Off" segment.  Have you missed it?  Well, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut about this one...  The link to the story is here.  Basically health officials in GA have started an ad campaign targeting childhood obesity.  Great.  This is a problem and it needs to be addressed.  So they've come up with ads that feature pictures of overweight kids with tag lines like:

"Stop sugar-coating it, Georgia." 

“Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”

"It's hard to be a little girl...when you're not."

Mmmmmkay.  Here's my issue.  Childhood obesity is NOT the child's fault.  I's NOT the child's fault.  I understand that 9 times out of 10, obesity is not a genetic disorder, a biological problem, a metabolic issue... it's because we eat too much and we don't move enough.  PERIOD.  However, kids can't control this!  Kids don't know how to eat healthy unless someone tells them and being a kid, telling them isn't enough.  You have to SHOW them.  If they see their parents eating healthy, they'll think that's the norm.  Period.  Done.

Do these ads raise awareness for parents that this is a problem?  Maybe...maybe not.  Part of the reason GA decided to do this was because "75 percent of parents (surveyed) with overweight or obese kids did not see their children as having a weight issue."  So are these same parents going to recognize their children in these ads?  Or are they going to remain in denial and say "That kid is way fatter than my kid."  So not only is the campaign effectiveness iffy at best, but it's mean to these kids.

The ads are right.  It's hard to be a fat kid.  I was chubby (NOT fat...I THOUGHT I was fat but I really wasn't) and getting teased about it sucked.  It affected my self esteem, my confidence, my social awkwardness and that has continued throughout adulthood.  Do we really need to create any more stigma for fat kids than they already deal with?  Do we really need posters telling these kids that they're not as good as everyone else, that they're "wrong" or that their weight defines them.  Kids are already cruel about weight.  Even if the child isn't overweight but their parents are, they get teased about THAT.  Fat mama jokes are the NORM on playgrounds.  Do we really need anything else that is going to make these children feel worse about themselves than they already do?  

These ads are an attempt to educate but, in my opinion, they're just another form of bullying.



Rachel said...

There is a huge debate in France right now because Pierre Dukan of the famous Dukan diet has suggested that high school students should lose points off of their end of year results if their BMI is more than that which is considered normal.... insanely ridiculous. Makes me mad... these kids don't have enough self-esteem issues so let's make it worse... not right.

jennxaz said...

I just joined your blog...I am not banded yet but live in Phoenix and really enjoy reading your blog. On your obesity blog, what do you think about the mom that got her boy taken away from her because he was overweight(way overweight) I am not sure how I feel about it...I don't know that the boy will do better in foster care

Ronnie said...

Hell no. That's all I can say. I would never allow my children to be on a poster like that.

I think it's definitely wrong.

vickyd said...

I just saw these ads yesterday and they make me both mad and incredibly sad. Like you, I was a chubby kid and certainly heard my share of teasing and I can just imagine that these ads might give some bullies some more ammunition...can you imagine hearing "you should be on one of those posters for fat kids"? I sure can.

I also know, as the mother of two overweight children, that kids are sometimes overweight regardless of what the parents do to try to help them. I don't keep crap in the house for my boys to eat but my youngest found a way to "charge" on his school account and get cash for the vending machines. When I called the school to suspend his charging privilages, he started raiding the change containers in the house so he could buy things in the vending machines.

These ads might help some people but there will always be parents who stick their head in the sand to avoid seeing the obvious and others who try everything they know to do and still have overweight kids but in the end I think there has to be a beter way to increase awareness than to make fun of these kids who already feel bad about how they look...*getting off of my soapbox now*

Sarah said...

Initially I think these are awful but the level of objection would depend on where they are being placed.

On another note, I teach a girl who is at least double the size she should be and I can't help but wish her parents would do something to help her. :o( She doesn't eat any rubbish at school and she's active at lunch and playtime. It's really sad.

Amanda Kiska said...

If there was actually some effective way to treat obesity that they were trying to promote, I'd be all for it. But all those ads are doing is shaming kids, shaming parents. A better ad would be a bunch of kids, thin and fat, choosing healthy snacks and being active. I do not believe shame produces long-term change. I think it may actually sabotage efforts to affect positive change.

Camille said...

Shame is not the answer, but when parents of obese and morbidly obese kids are not informed that their children are ill, it's a problem. Pediatricians are the worst about using words like chubby and husky. Obese, morbidly obese, per-diabetic are words that need to be used in these parent's presence. Obesity is a disease. Obese children have a disease that will shorten their life. I'm not a fan of the adds, but applaud the attempt to raise awareness.

tz said...

OMG...So I'm doing my master's project on childhood obesity and how to educate children on health promotion, so far in all the nursing evidence based practice articles I'm reading there is nothing that justifies GA's choice in public announcements. It is true that Parents are sometimes unaware of BMIs and pediatricians are lackluster in bringing the subject up as are most health care professionals...but there are other ways to educate children and parents. In my opinion and the one I'm going with in my project is to encourage healthy eating, emphasizing the health benefits rather then the weight loss reasons and also promote exercise. In my project I'm suggesting this through the schools as I'm a school nurse but it can be done in other arenas as well. Evidence actually shows that this kind of 'education' (and I think your term, bullying is more accurate) can back fire, interventions that educate on promotion of a healthy weight rather then interventions on getting kids to lose weight work much better.

I am so with you and find this disturbing I hope they rethink this and use the funds to help rather then hurt.

I'm glad you posted this. And sorry it's a subject close to my heart, obviously since it's my project :D