Slogans that stigmatize obesity don't get their message across and may do more harm than good.
After much media posturing (and some grassroots Twitter action) earlier this year about negative anti-obesity campaigns, researchers at Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity stepped in to measure Americans' actual attitudes about ads meant to encourage healthier eating and lifestyle habits.
The researchers took a nationally representative sample of Americans and asked them to assess a variety of highly visible campaign slogans in an online survey. They were interested in knowing what the respondents thought about how informative, motivating, or credible the slogans seemed. They were also curious as to which ads came off as confusing, stigmatizing, or inappropriate. Finally, they asked the respondents whether they intended to follow the messages' advice.
What they found is basically what was expected: the public craves positive reinforcement and rejects stigmatizing or otherwise negative messages. A simple message from First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign -- "Move Everyday" -- was the public's favorite.
"The most positively rated were campaigns that focused on encouraging specific health behaviors or actions, like eating fruits and vegetables every day or engaging in physical activity" said lead author Rebecca Puhl, "And the most motivating were the ones that made no mention of obesity or weight at all."