Article: Obesity Campaigns: The Fine Line Between Educating and Shaming – Lindsay Abrams – The Atlantic

Obesity Campaigns: The Fine Line Between Educating and Shaming – Lindsay Abrams – The Atlantic.

At what point do public health announcements do more harm than good? Living in NYC, I’m exposed to a number of these kinds of ads to promote healthy eating, cut sugar, or quit smoking, and they’re all visually graphic and somewhat disturbing. Similar to the anti-drink driving ads aired in Ireland and the UK several years back, the point is to shock the viewer. But those ads proved ineffective as researchers noted the number of drink-and-drive incidents actually went up after the PSAs aired.

So what can we do? At what point does being politically correct and sensitive to the target audience overtake the desire to implement an effective campaign against obesity? What do you think?

2 Replies to “Article: Obesity Campaigns: The Fine Line Between Educating and Shaming – Lindsay Abrams – The Atlantic”

  1. Such a complex subject. Studies continue to show that people won’t try to change if they think they can’t. I know these are so cheesy, but I love the shows like “biggest loser” that show people there is hope for them. If these people can do this hard work and eat this way and succeed so can they.
    My husband is obese (150 pounds overweight) and being a health advocate it’s caused some serious problems, but he honestly thinks it’s not worth it to change, it’s too hard, so he continues to eat. I’ve stopped nagging at this point.
    I guess my point is not to divulge personal information, but to pose a possibility that maybe a lot of folks are feeling this way. For many, unfortunately, it takes a life changing event, like a heart attack, to show them the way.


    1. I completely agree with you. I think PSAs are a great tool and are fantastic from a social perspective. They get the conversation going and hopefully introduce people to new ideas about these public health issues which is a huge win. But questions about their effectiveness are legitimate.
      I think so much of this is psychological and a shock ad campaign won’t do much in the long run because viewers need to be affected intimately, as you said with something like a heart attack. I know from firsthand experience that if you don’t believe you’re capable of changing, then nothing anyone else says will make you believe it. You’re right about shows like the Biggest Loser. Something like that at least gives people a model in an extended format. I just wish there was something out there that can successfully grab people’s attention quickly and motivate them to change. Not, a slogan that’ll likely offend and turn you off. I dunno, like you said, complex! Thanks so much for commenting, btw. I love hearing people’s opinions about these issues!


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