Debate: Do these controversial childhood obesity ads cross the line?

If your child is obese, it’s your fault. Well, at least according to a new ad campaign from Children’s Healthcare


If your child is obese, it’s your fault.

Well, at least according to a new ad campaign from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Aimed at making people take notice of what has become an epidemic in North America, the Strong4Life ads use provocatively-captioned images of real-life obese children to convey their message.

‘Big bones didn’t make me this way, big meals did,’ reads one ad.

‘It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not,’ reads another.

Criticism of the ads can be found on the organization’s Facebook page, with many people arguing they will hurt children, not help them.

‘I think the new ad is horrific. It’s shaming kids into feeling like they are not good enough as they are,’ wrote one Facebook commenter. ‘Yes, obesity is a serious disease and people need to be educated. However, this ad makes it seem that these kids will not be good until they lose weight, which is not true.’

While the tone of the ads may be harsh, they are bringing attention to an often-ignored problem. The childhood obesity epidemic is a health crisis, with 31.7 percent of American children and 26 percent of Canadian childen aged two to 19 being overweight or obese‘yet it’s not given the consideration it deserves.

‘Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is little acknowledgement of the crisis,’ Strong4Life’s Facebook page states. ‘In fact, we surveyed parents of overweight or obese children in Georgia and found that 75 percent did not recognize their child’s obesity or the associated health risks.’

In my opinion, that statistic is much more shocking than these ads. Especially considering last year’s controversial article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which suggested parents of extremely obese children should lose custody. If the thought of losing their children doesn’t prompt parents to take action, maybe these ads will.

What do you think? Are these ads helpful or harmful? Should parents be held accountable for the weight of their children? 

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‘Guest post: Katharine Watts