Georgia's 'Strong4Life' campaign is harsh, but necessary - now it's time to get mHealth involved
Georgia’s “Strong4Life” campaign, which targets childhood obesity through a series of stark ads and billboards, is drawing strong reactions, both for and against. The campaign, backed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, uses overweight children to urge Georgians to “stop sugar-coating the problem” and tackle the growing epidemic of juvenile obesity head-on.
Advocates say the campaign, in a state with the second-highest obesity rate in the nation, is a refreshing, in-your-face message to parents and children (accompanying text says 75 percent of parents of overweight kids “ignore the problem.”) Critics complain the ads are too harsh and humiliating.
The campaign is a step in the right direction, tackling an issue that too often gets pushed aside because it’s deemed too sensitive to discuss in public. The sad fact is that parents of overweight children – many of whom are overweight themselves – won’t do anything to adopt a healthier lifestyle unless confronted and convinced. With serious health issues on the horizon, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, a few jolts to one’s self-esteem would seem to be a small price to pay.
That said, this campaign needs to get even more personal. And that’s where mobile health tools come into play.
Now that the issue is out in the open, Georgia – a state that, by the way, ranks among the nation’s best in telehealth initiatives – needs to narrow its focus to those children and adults in need of reinforcement. The state’s healthcare providers can do this by adopting text messaging and SMS programs designed to reach and interact with children and their parents.
Launched and supported by the state’s doctors, such programs could offer personalized messages to overweight teens and their parents, offering support and suggestions toward living a healthier lifestyle. They could take advantage of smartphone apps now on the market that analyze foods and meal decisions for nutritional value and offer healthier options, or social networking tools that enable real-time communication with peers and providers.
The concept is being tested in a number of places with diabetic children and adults, and with those suffering from other chronic conditions.
In short, “Strong4Life” campaign has done its job by bringing childhood obesity out in the open and into the conversation. Now it’s time for doctors and use the newest tools at their disposal to direct that conversation and make it even more effective.