by Barbara Berkeley, MD
Just a quick post about a recent article on the anti-obesity campaign that is running in the state of Georgia. The bottom line is that someone has decided that a tough way to tackle childhood obesity is to put up posters that feature fat kids and harsh rhetoric (example: "Big bones didn't make me this way. Big meals did.")
I believe I can predict your response to this, although some may say that we need more blunt and honest approaches to the problem. Speaking for myself, I have always been particularly infuriated by those who blame parents for the obesity epidemic. It is increasingly difficult to control the lives of children when an entire society opposes the message you give at home. And for many parents, especially in low income areas, the options for eating well may be few. We can't ask parents to do this on their own and we certainly shouldn't be giving the greater society more ammunition for shunning those who are obese.
Here's my posted response to the article above:
It makes us feel good to blame the problem on someone (in this case, the parents). We think that the fix is an easy one: simply cut out the chips, turn off the TV, and take a walk. It simply isn't so.
There is no fair shot for kids until the fight against obesity permeates our national consciousness. Schools MUST teach children about their bodies and the real consequences of bad eating. We can't shrink from the graphic understanding of how a clogged artery kills the heart or what diabetes does to destroy kidneys, eyes and limbs. Second, we need a public campaign to demand that food manufacturers be prevented from marketing junk foods to kids. Third, public outrage must demand better food from food makers. Fourth, we must reward good health and healthy behaviors with incentives in our insurance premiums and at work. Fifth, we must work in our own communities to bring in healthier food and to tamp down the proliferation of fast food and chain restaurants. I'd personally love to see supermarkets divide their stores into processed and minimally processed sections so that anything bought in one area would contain no more than one to three ingredients, none of which was an additive.
The list could go on endlessly. Parents are a vital part of the equation, but will be unable to control the problem without much broader public strategies. The problem is in the larger culture, of which each home is simply a greater or lesser reflection.
Care to weigh in on this one?