The video: "Mom, why am I fat?" a young child flatly asks his obese mother, who sighs before the commercial fades to black. The scene is part of a controversial new ad campaign by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta titled Strong 4 Life (see a video below). The "grim" commercials and print ads feature emotionally frought, overweight children dealing with everything from diabetes to school bullying. The group's goal is to confront Georgia's growing weight concerns head-on — the state's child obesity rate is second only to Mississippi — under the tagline "Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia." But some people say the ads might be harmful, merely shaming overweight children based on their looks. Though the campaign's aims are well-intentioned, do the Strong 4 Life ads go too far?
The reaction: Making people feel badly about their weight "doesn't work," says Carrie Teegardin at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It may be an effective agent of change for things like smoking. But these are kids. This won't help them shed pounds. If anything it will make them feel worse about themselves. Somebody had to stop and say, "Hey, Georgia, wake up," says Linda Matzigkeit, a Children's Healthcare senior vice president. "We felt we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign." Fine, but "telling kids to drop weight so they won't get picked on is a "terrible philosophy," says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. Some children will be big no matter what — "even if they're perfectly healthy." We should focus on the bullies. Not the victims. Watch one of the ads for yourself: