Given the alarming rise of childhood diabetes, health policy experts have expressed a wide array of strong opinions around the best way to curb this epidemic. All experts and pediatricians are in agreement, for example, that teaching kids the importance of exercise and a good diet is critical. Yet a recent effort to curb childhood obesity has kicked off a controversy around the most effective strategies available for reducing childhood obesity and, in turn, childhood diabetes.
Atlanta has the nation’s second-highest childhood obesity rate, so a local group called Strong4Life launched a billboard campaign showing unhappy obese children with messages like, “Chubby isn’t cute if it leads to Type 2 diabetes” and “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”
Needless to say, it sparked a firestorm, as opponents argued such messages were damaging to the self-esteem of obese children and could even encourage bullying. Strong4Life, meanwhile, countered by saying the ends justify the means: obese children are more likely to become diabetics, and in turn, have their lives be in danger.
It’s a tremendously complicated issue, and one in which its importance to balance the fact that while children do need to be reminded of the importance of a good diet, their self-esteem is particularly fragile and must be dealt with accordingly.