Harsh obesity ads speak naked truth

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Harsh obesity ads speak naked truth

The Southerner

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By Gabrielle Siegel

Warning: chubby isn’t cute if it leads to diabetes.

Let me guess—your jaw has dropped, your eyebrows have risen, and the thoughts floating through you heads, would become insults hurled in my direction if you put them to words. You think I must be a naïve, insensitive, hurtful teenager who thinks being fat is wrong. But how would you feel if you saw that same phrase posted on a billboard, sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta? Maybe it would encourage you to ponder the future of the youth in our country’s ever-growing obesity epidemic.

CHOA launched its Strong4Life campaign in May of 2011 in response to rising childhood obesity rates in the United States, especially in Georgia. Georgia is second behind Mississippi for the highest childhood obesity rate in the country, with nearly 40 percent of kids in the state being overweight or obese. As part of this campaign, CHOA scattered billboards and ads throughout the city and televised commercials locally, all featuring overweight child actors. Below the image of these children are statements such as, “Fat kids become fat adults” and “My fat may be funny to you, but it’s killing me.”

CHOA’s website claims, “It’s all about raising awareness and improving the health of overweight and obese children.”

Many people, understandably, are opposed to the message these ads are sending. Those who disagree have created their own websites and ads such as, “Warning: Shame is bad for your health.” I can see how the Strong4Life ads may be deemed insensitive and hurtful. They are not, however, meant to make overweight kids feel bad about themselves; they are meant to shed light on the risks of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Children in this generation are being diagnosed with diseases such as hypertension, liver and kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes. What makes this so frightening is that these dangerous health problems were once only seen in adults.

As food production becomes more industrialized, food is packed with more preservatives, and as new technologies keep kids inside more and more, childhood obesity will continue to worsen. If nothing is done to stop this crisis, our life expectancy will begin to decrease for the first time in history. If this isn’t enough to convince you something drastic needs to be done, know that Georgia’s obesity costs (which include direct health-care costs and lost productivity from health problems) are estimated at $2.4 billion each year according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

CHOA is taking a firm hand against the issue, but tough love may be the only way to get the message across. Parents need to realize that when they allow their children to drink soda every day and take them to McDonald’s multiple times a week, they’re not doing their kids a favor. They are shortening their lives.

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