Do the Strong4Life childhood obesity ads really stigmatize overweight kids?

Jan 11

The question isn’t have you seen the latest childhood obesity ads from Strong4Life, but do you have an opinion to add to all of those floating around?

While there seems to be a general consensus in the dialogue about this controversial campaign, that these ads have missed the mark in being particularly effective from a behavior change standpoint, these ads have also come under fire for further stigmatizing children who are struggling with obesity or are overweight. This is where I disagree—or at least where I become confused.

Warning: Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line.

Image: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

How do these ads further stigmatize children who are obese or overweight? These ads highlight the unfortunate plight of these children who state that they don’t like to go to school because they get picked on, or that they prefer solitary play (e.g. video games) because of the teasing of other children in other settings—or the clearly disturbed question of a young boy who asks his mother: “Mom, why am I fat?”. I’m not clear how these dramatizations are pointing fingers at these children or how they further add to the stigma associated with overweight or obesity. In fact, these ads very powerfully use the stigma these children are already facing to call attention to the issue. Perhaps that is the greatest strength of these ads—they startle us, and make us face an issue through the eyes of the children that are affected. They cut through the clutter and compel.

Where they admittedly fall short is utilizing that attention they’ve garnered to deliver a strong call to action around what can be done to help prevent overweight and obesity. A truly missed opportunity.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 1:14 pm and is filed under Media, Public Health, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Do the Strong4Life childhood obesity ads really stigmatize overweight kids?”

  1. Nicole says:

    Hello Trish,

    Thanks for your post! I agree with your comment with regards to these ads needing a strong call to action at the end. Although these ads are meant to be very powerful and to really hit home, I think they can leave people with very negative thoughts. They might be more beneficial if they ended on a bit more positive note of encouragement: “You can” statements as well as “How”. I also think the URL at the end could lead directly to their “Get Started: Quick Tips” page versus the homepage.

  2. Trish says:

    Thanks for your comment Nicole….agree on the importance of ‘you can’ statements and think your suggestion for where the ads should land is a great idea.

  3. Shannon says:

    Trish, thoughtful take on this campaign! One interesting article I recently read discusses the connection between exclusion/stigmatization and physical activity. The study, published in Pediatrics, found that children who were excluded during a video game were subsequently less physically active. Definitely relevant to these types of campaigns. You can read the full recap here: