In an effort to help combat rising obesity rates in Minnesota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota recently released two public service announcements (PSAs) focusing on how adult behaviors and choices affect kids. Since the videos were released, there’s been a slew of criticism tossed at Blue Cross and Blue Shield for “shaming overweight people.” One YouTube viewer notes, “Shame on you BCBS for continuing the thought process that shaming people is healthy and appropriate.” Others like the ads. For example, another YouTube viewer points out, “I see nothing offensive about this ad. Sometimes we make decisions and we don’t think about the effect they have on the younger ones.” Marc Manley, the vice president and chief prevention officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota makes no apologies for the ads, telling NPR that he was “Very involved with the creation and messaging behind the ads” and that the intent was to create ads that, “Show good parents having moments of realization that they needed to change their own behavior in order to send the right message to their kid.”
All over the Internet people have taken sides over the anti-obesity ads. Keep reading to see where people stand and to see some important statistics about obesity in the USA.
Do these sort of ads work?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen debates like this. Last year Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta kicked off a grim, yet realistic and highly controversial anti-obesity campaign Strong4Life that included billboards and commercials. About 700 mom and dad bloggers, fitness professionals, Registered Dietitians, doctors and other individuals called the ads shaming, put up a huge fight and rallied together to end the campaign - and they succeeded. Strong4Life took down their billboards and created more neutral messages about how parents can talk to their kids about weight, exercise and food choices. The end of the campaign wasn’t met with total joy though. Many felt the ads did make a difference — including Maya Walters, a teenager with high blood pressure who appeared in one of the ads. Walters told the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, “I think it’s really brave to talk about the elephant in the room. It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes.”
Children’s Healthcare, who created the ads were happy with their results in spite of the ads being taken down. Linda Matzigkeit, a senior vice president at Children’s Healthcare noted, “In the end, I think people are saying it really is time for a wake-up call. It’s not good for business if your state has the second-highest obesity rate.” Matzigkeit also points out that Children’s Healthcare commonly sees children with heart disease and diabetes, or who need knee replacements, all due to excess weight. On top of this, when the Strong4Life campaign was tested, Matzigkeit said 85% of those who saw the ads said the approach seemed appropriate. Plus, and this is key, Trust for America’s Health research shows that after Strong4Life launched, Georgia’s obesity rate dropped from 28.7% to 28%, a small but very significant shift.