Georgia's Controversial Campaign to Address Childhood Obesity
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta launched a public health campaign last spring to raise awareness about the seriousness of childhood obesity in Georgia. The campaign involves a series of billboards, television spots, and a website with images and testimonials of obese youth providing "warning" messages such as "Big Bones Didn't Make Me This Way, Big Meals Did" and "Fat Kids Become Fat Adults." This caused a considerable amount of debate and criticism among parents, health professionals, and citizens who were concerned about how obese youth were being portrayed.
The campaign's approach is misguided and has the potential to harm those most in need of help, according to Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives in a recent blog on Medscape. The messages are not constructive, unlikely to be effective, and offer no support or solutions for families struggling with obesity.
"If Georgia wants to effectively address childhood obesity, more careful consideration should be given to the kinds of public health messages that are disseminated, so that children and families who are struggling with obesity can be supported in their efforts to become healthier, rather than shamed and stigmatized," said Dr. Puhl.
The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).
Healthy Beverage Campaign Slides
Communities across North America are launching creative campaigns and policy changes to reduce sugary drink consumption and promote healthy alternatives, especially for children. The Rudd Center created slides to review these diverse and inspiring efforts, which include media campaigns, art and video contests, pledges, and local policy changes.
New York City Targets Sugary Drinks and Fast Food
The New York City health department recently launched a series of posters demonstrating the growth of portions of sugary drinks and fast food. The ads, which appear on subways in English and Spanish, also demonstrate the health effects of increased portions, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.
YMCA Teams Up with Michelle Obama
The YMCA recently announced it will address childhood obesity in collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America. The organization plans to designate fruits and vegetables as snack options and water as the primary beverage. The YMCA will roll out the initiative in its local branches through 2015.
New Horizon Academy and The Links also made commitments with Partnership for a Healthier America to address childhood obesity.
Upcoming Seminar Speakers
January 18, 12:30 pm
January 25, 12:30 pm
February 8, 12:30 pm
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Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for the Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.
Employment Opportunities at the Rudd Center
If you would like to work toward improving the world’s diet and preventing obesity, read about the open positions at the Rudd Center: Director of Advocacy Resources and Research Associate (Part-Time).
Rudd Center Spotlight: Edward M. Cooney, JD
Edward M. Cooney, JD, Executive Director of the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC), will discuss the top 2012 policy priorities for national anti-hunger advocates on January 18 during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.
CHC is a leader in the movement to ensure access to food as a basic human right for all people by developing the commitment, skill, and political will to end hunger.
Before joining CHC, Mr. Cooney served as an anti-hunger advocate at the Food Research and Action Center and Connecticut Legal Services, held two senior positions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition programs, and was a member of the USDA’s Senior Executive Service, the government’s top management team. He has worked on every major child nutrition and Food Stamp bill since 1977.
Congressional staff, government officials, and leading scientific and educational institutions seek Mr. Cooney’s expertise about nutrition programs and policy issues. He was elected to the Board of Overseers of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and received the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition from the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and School Nutrition Association.
Best and Worst Marketing Practices
Cuties Campaign Makes
Honeycomb Encourages Children to Advertise in School
Just Published by the Rudd Center
Food Company Computer Games Increase Junk Food Consumption
Despite food company pledges to reduce marketing of unhealthy products to children, children are disproportionately targeted by food company websites using branded computer games, known as advergames, according to a study just published by the Rudd Center in the Journal of Children and Media. The study also showed that playing these games increases children's consumption of junk food.
Several companies in the United States have pledged to shift their child-targeted advertising to “better-for-you” foods through the voluntary Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative sponsored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, according to the researchers. However, not one advergame in the analysis met the council’s criteria for child-directed advertising.
“While research has shown a decline in television food advertisements targeted to children, companies are introducing new and sophisticated forms of marketing such as advergames that allow children to engage in advertising content for unlimited amounts of time,” said lead author Jennifer Harris, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives.
The researchers asserted that this study showing the reach and impact of advergames on children's eating behaviors demonstrates the need for substantial reductions in the use of advergames to promote unhealthy food to children.
The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director; and Sarah Speers, former Research Assistant.
Food for Thought: Schools and Vending Machine Profits
Several years ago, officials in Seattle schools banned unhealthful food from school vending machines, creating limits on fat and sugar content and portion size. Junk foods, including candy bars, chips, and soda, were replaced with more healthful options such as water, juice, and baked chips. But the new vending machine options bring in less revenue for student groups. Consequently, Seattle school officials are considering relaxing the snack food policy for the next school year.
Rudd ‘Roots Parents offers ideas for healthy fundraising alternatives, a worksheet to develop strategies for change, and steps to track progress.