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September 2013

Children, Stigma, and Obesity

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Hastings Center, Garrison, New York
JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(9):791-792. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2814

In the winter of 2012, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia’s largest pediatric health care provider, developed an advertising campaign consisting of television and posters. A central focus of that effort was publishing pictures of obese children. The pictures were accompanied by messages, one of which was “you can stop your child’s obesity.” The targeted audience was not the obese children but their parents, many of whom seem to be in denial of their child’s condition. That strategy backfired.1 The pictures and messages were received with a torrent of indignation, from parents and others, so much so that the project organizers removed them. Did the organizers of the campaign feel sorry for what they unleashed? Not at all, one spokesperson for the project said, “Our intention was to get people talking about childhood obesity and we did that.” The context for that effort was the fact that 40% of Georgia’s children are overweight or obese, the second highest in the nation, while 50% of Georgians do not consider childhood obesity a problem.

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