Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Fear Makes Us Fat

   In the past week, the Rudd Center released a report on the affects of childhood anti obesity campaigns including the one that is running in Georgia. I believe that I have already discussed it here.
   That campaign includes print, radio and TV spots that highlight obese children.  During the TV or radio spots, children are seen or heard in various situations that include dramatic music. The child may talk about being left out of activities, being unable to participate in activities, or having high blood pressure and diabetes.  Sometimes words are introduced in bold and dramatic manner on the screen.
   The point of the ads is to scare people.  Scare people into doing something about obesity.  They only succeed on the scare not the action. The main reason they fail is that they do not give suggestions for maintaining a healthy weight or for losing weight.  
   This is something I have talked about before - in regards to using fear appeals or fear messages.  They do have a place in health promotion and behavior change but ONLY if the intended audience (in this case the parents) is given a strategy and a means to access and apply it.  [think about smoking. You can scare people but you also have to tell them that quitting is possible, nicotine therapy helps, nicotine therapy (medications) can be obtained, where to get it and then provide it at no or low costs.]
   The Rudd study found that the obesity messages made things worse and for the very reasons I just explained.
   We do not need to tell parents or children that they are fat - we need to make it so they do not "passively" consume too many calories in the first place.
Please read the published Rudd study  HERE
   BTW, in the story I read, Rudd staff noted that menu labeling was one of the successful strategies that should be promoted.

No comments: