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Obese Young People on Anti-Obesity Billboards - Raising Awareness or Promoting Stigmatization?



The Georgia Children's Health Alliance (GCHA) has implemented a new strategy to promote public awareness about the dangers associated with childhood obesity. As part of their "Stop Childhood Obesity" campaign, the GCHA has created videos and posted billboards featuring obese children.

According to the Georgia Children's Health Alliance website, GCHA was created in 2009 as part of a collaboration between public, business, not-for-profit, community and private sectors "to improve the wellness of Georgia's children."

Despite the need to make the public aware of the danger that excess weight poses to the health and well-being of young people, opponents of the campaign say that efforts to curtail obesity will stigmatize people whom are overweight and obese.

One such group, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) posted a link to an article criticizing the GCHA decision to run the obesity awareness ads. NAAFA advocates acceptance of overweight and obese people, and since 1969 they have worked tirelessly to champion human rights and promote dignity for all people. They worry about the psychological harm that anti-obesity programs will cause to obese people.

NAAFA's fears are not without merit. Yes, obese and overweight people are in danger of ridicule by insensitive and poorly informed people. Yes, some overweight and obese children will feel ashamed of their body size and may develop self - esteem issues. But these problems existed long before the GCHA started their billboard ad campaign.

America is in the midst of a health epidemic. Childhood obesity is a very serious health condition that threatens the lives of millions of young people. I say again that NAAFA's concerns are not without merit but how can high blood pressure, constant inflammation, type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, increased risk for various cancers and premature death be healthy?

It is a fact that severely overweight and obese people are at much higher risk for any of the above mentioned afflictions than non-obese people. Obesity undercuts both quality and quantity of life. As I wrote in an article that I published last October, there simply is no such thing as the healthy obese

Parents, teachers and health care providers have both a responsibility and moral obligation to look out for the welfare of young people. Until they reach legal age, decisions about their health and well-being will be made by adults.

That is why government agencies require that nutritious meals be provided at public schools, and regular exercise is recommended for youngsters. These are done to keep children safe.

Proper education strengthens public awareness; when young people learn early on how to make informed food choices and to either correct mistakes (or avoid them altogether) they need not suffer the psychological and physical harm brought on by obesity.

The GCHA is doing the right thing and I hope that their message gets through to young people and adults. It may save a lot of lives.

What about you? Do you think that anti-obesity ad campaigns are harmful to obese people's self-esteem? Share your thoughts in the comments.

God is compassionate.


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