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What does the yuck factor achieve in anti-obesity campaigns ?

The most recent Australian anti-obesity measure, the West Australian LiveLighter campaign, features a series of shocking television advertisements, including one showing a middle-aged man in his kitchen…

Print advertising from the LiveLighter Western Australia’s anti-obesity campaign.

The most recent Australian anti-obesity measure, the West Australian LiveLighter campaign, features a series of shocking television advertisements, including one showing a middle-aged man in his kitchen.

The man reaches into his fridge to take out a slice of left-over pizza. As he holds the pizza, wondering whether to go ahead and wolf it down, he glances down at his belly. His other hand squeezes the flesh there and the camera suddenly swoops into the man’s insides. Viewers are treated to images of pulsing slabs of bright yellow fat covering body organs.

The camera goes back to the man as he looks pensively through a doorway at his young sons happily playing a computer game. The voice-over says, “Fat around your waist is bad, but toxic fat around your vital organs is worse.”

The viewer is left in suspense, wondering if this dad will let himself and his family down by indulging his desire for pizza and thereby adding to his “toxic” visceral fat.

This is part of yet another in a series of social marketing campaigns conducted for health promotion purposes and funded by public health authorities. Like many such ads, it seeks to achieve behaviour change by evoking negative emotions. These include fear of disease and an early death, guilt, shame, embarrassment – and in cases such as this one, disgust.

The images of this ad share the “yuck factor” with past Australian anti-smoking campaigns and photographs on cigarette packets. These images have featured gangrenous limbs or digits, blackened lungs full of tar, a mouth disfigured by cancerous lesions, people coughing up blood and so on.

The LiveLighter campaign is replicating the “Every cigarette is doing you damage” anti-smoking campaign by focusing on internal organs contaminated and rotted by tobacco. Here the slice of pizza replaces the cigarette as the poisonous agent of bodily damage.

The health authorities that give the go-ahead to advertising agencies to create such ads clearly believe that provoking shock, horror and repulsion in the viewer is a legitimate and effective means of persuading people to change their habits.

In the case of the LiveLighter campaign, the intention is clearly to invite the target audience – people who have a “grabbable gut”, as the campaign’s print media ads put it – to envisage the insides of their bodies as diseased, poisoned and repulsively overrun with deposits of viscous fat. As it’s noted on the campaign website: “We certainly hope to make a big impact with this new campaign.”

The campaign can be criticised for its very imprecise use of language with such terms as “grabbable gut” as a marker for dangerous weight-gain, and its simplistic representation of internal fat as invariably “toxic”.

Critics of these kinds of tactics in health social marketing campaigns are less than convinced that they are ethical or even effective. They have expressed strong concern that the association of certain types of people with revolting images serves only to position these people as disgusting themselves. And looking at these images of chunky fat strangling body organs is enough to put anyone off their pizza – or their low-calorie salad, for that matter.

The idea that this apparently poisonous stuff is bubbling away inside one’s body inspires revulsion towards that body – both its outward “grabbable” fat and its internal hidden “toxic” fat.

Do such disgust-inducing tactics even work to change people’s behaviour? It’s one thing to arouse controversy by using shock tactics, it is another for such tactics to actually have an effect on entrenched daily habits. Research suggests that although anti-obesity campaigns are certainly capable of drawing audiences’ attention to the issues, and sometimes in inducing them to make short-term changes, they have not often been effective in changing long-term behaviour.

Some researchers have argued that fear tactics may be counter-productive, as they simply encourage people to switch off and not pay attention to campaign messages. Even if fear is induced, if people feel unable to make changes this may lead to unresolved insecurity, anxiety and self-hatred.

While little focused research has zeroed in on evaluating specifically the effectiveness of attempts to induce disgust, it’s likely that many members of the target audience may simply avert their eyes because they find the images so repulsive. The whole emotional reaction of disgust is about aversion, the desire to avoid the sight, smell or touch of the repellent object with which one is confronted. Moral meanings are also central to what we find disgusting.

Whether or not they are effective, it’s difficult not to feel queasy about the punitive, patronising and moralistic attitudes displayed in these kinds of anti-obesity campaigns. In their efforts to inspire negative emotional responses, the agencies that develop and fund such campaigns never appear to acknowledge or take responsibility for their possible unintended side-effects. These may include provoking and perpetuating self-disgust, guilt, shame and dread and contributing to the marginalisation and stigmatisation of certain behaviours, body types or social groups.

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66 Comments sorted by

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    Great article, Deborah. We know public health initiatives are well-intentioned, but we don't always ask whether they work, let alone whether they have unintended consequences.

    Just from experience, it seems people pressured to lose weight think about food more often, and eat 'sinful' food between meals, possibly as relief from the stress. Is there anything to this?

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    1. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to James Jenkin

      V. interesting James. Perhaps there's a kind of kneejerk response of defiance - "Damn you, you can't stop me having this cake". It's quite a complex response if so, don't you think? A lot of shame and unhappiness buried in the anger.

      I think this campaign, however well-intentioned, has missed its mark. The tone's all wrong. It does seem patronising, though seems to me it can be hard to deliver unpleasant truths without seeming patronising. It's not healthy to be obese, I think almost everyone…

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Diana Brown

      Hi Diana, an interesting point about defiance. It does seem 'people reason that because they were forced to be good for one meal, they can splurge on snacks and desserts at later meals' (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/how-bloombergs-soft-drink-ban-will-backfire-on-nyc-public-health/258501/). This doesn't address the psychological reasons for such decision making, but it does suggest interventions in people's diets can have perverse consequences.

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    3. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Thank you for your comments, James. As for the question about whether people pressured to lose weight respond by eating more due to stress, I'm not sure but no doubt there are many psychological studies out there that have investigated this kind of question (I'm a sociologist). But we all know that a lot of over-eating is comfort eating due to emotional reasons, and self-loathing is no doubt one of them.

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    4. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Exactly, James. And I think the whole thing rests on the notion of being 'forced to be good', because there's an antagonist implicit there - who's doing the forcing otherwise? So immediately the situation is one of conflict, a preoccupying, deadly boring inner war between two positions: self-justification (why shouldn't I have that cake?) and guilt (omg I'm so fat I'm not allowed to have that cake). Not a helpful starting point, is it?

      How much better it would be if there were NO inner war…

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Diana Brown

      PLEASE!

      Acting indulgently towards spoiled children rarely if ever has any impact on modifying their unacceptible behaviour.

      Tough love is usually the necessary remedy.

      As is the case with smokers and the increasing proportion of over weight Australians.

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    6. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      'Spoiled children', Greg? what are you talking about? 'Tough love' ? Don't you think that's rather patronising? Well, probably you don't, as you wrote it. But I sure do.

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    7. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Diana Brown

      Yes Dale spoiled children.

      Sadly that is how many adults seem to behave these days - 30, 40, 50 and 60 yo children demanding this and expecting that but ignoring the obligations that come with them.

      Greece and Spain are what happens when governments give out too many entitlements and don't expect enough obligations in return.

      That is what will happen to Australia via our public health system, as our population ages and sickens, if we do not attach obligations to our access to the public health system and medicare.

      We have and continue to crack down on unemplyment benefits etc.

      Why should the rest of Australia not share in the burdon of limiting publicly funded entitlements by improving their lifestyle choices so as to reduce their burdon on the public health care system........or pay an increased medicare levi to compensate for their poor lifestyle choices.

      What is good for the goose is good for the gander I reckon!

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    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Diana Brown

      Yes Dale spoiled children.

      Sadly that is how many adults seem to behave these days - 30, 40, 50 and 60 yo children demanding this and expecting that but ignoring the obligations that come with them.

      Greece and Spain are what happens when governments give out too many entitlements and don't expect enough obligations in return.

      That is what will happen to Australia via our public health system, as our population ages and sickens, if we do not attach obligations to our access to the public health system and medicare.

      We have and continue to crack down on unemplyment benefits etc.

      Why should the rest of Australia not share in the burdon of limiting publicly funded entitlements by improving their lifestyle choices so as to reduce their burdon on the public health care system........or pay an increased medicare levi to compensate for their poor lifestyle choices.

      What is good for the goose is good for the gander I reckon!

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    9. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I will elaborate a little.....

      Sadly that is how many adults seem to behave these days - 30, 40, 50 and 60 yo children demanding this and expecting that but ignoring the obligations that come with them.

      While at the same them and denying entitlements to younger Australians who can't gain employment etc and whom you deem as unworthy of receiving unemployment benefits.

      Well I am passing similar judgement on you older, fatter, smoking and drinking Australians that I do not think you are worthy…

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  2. Joe Gartner

    Tilter

    I suppose time will tell if these advertisements work or not. WA is turning into one big case study to see if the author is right or wrong. I presume that this campaign is being undertaken with other measures to encourage rather than to demonize... Carrot and stick and all that.

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  3. William Pinskey

    Accountant

    Interesting article, although I think that the comparison to cigarette advertising s somewhat specious considering that warning labels and other "yuck-factor" approaches have been somewhat successful in reducing the total amount of smokers.......

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to William Pinskey

      Let's no forget the huge legislative efforts that accompanied disgusting imagery in anti-smoking ads. And the ethical question I raised still stands: is it morally acceptable to attempt to inculcate self-disgust and perpetuate attitudes of disgust towards certain social groups to achieve a health promotion goal?

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    2. William Pinskey

      Accountant

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      It is true, much more legislature has been set around limiting the amount of smokers, and the steady increase of taxation is bound to have a positive effect on that.

      But again, this entire anti-smoking campaign was borne out of inducing self-disgust and basically stigmatising smokers to an extreme. This was a sustained attack over many many many years... maybe there is something to this stigmatisation? Is there any research associated with it?

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    3. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to William Pinskey

      The evidence for the effects of fear-based campaigns is mixed. Some appear to work, some do not. Analyses of anti-obesity campaigns have found that thus far they have had little effect on long-term change, whatever tactics they have used. Not much research has been directed specifically at the effects of disgust in campaigns or stigmatisation. Whether or not stigmatisation works, my question is, is it ethical to elicit fear, hatred, shame or disgust of oneself or others?

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    4. William Pinskey

      Accountant

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      The stigmatisation of smoking has been a long and sustained campaign spanning several decades. Smoking was slowly but surely regarded as a disgusting life-threatening habit, a massive cost to society both financially and medically. Advertising for cigarettes was banned. Smokers were then methodically ejected from most areas of society: first at work, then planes, then restaurants, then bars, then out the front of your own workplace/place of business, then train stations, then in your own car (if…

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to William Pinskey

      Absolutely agree about the line in the sand thing.

      Clearly you can't ban obese people from restaurants etc as you can with smokers so different stigmatisation tactics will be needed.

      As far as I can see a good one is forcing everyone to be subject to annual medicare medical check ups and having your medicare levi determined, on some sort of sliding scale, by your lifestyle choices would be the most effective strategy.

      Even if I would find it a bit of a nuisance myself as a non-obsese/overweight…

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    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      What the hell do you propose to do in place of any form of stigmatisation Deborah?

      Ignore the elephant in the room and not mention their weight problem in case you offend them??????

      You can't deny that, for a highly social species such as humans, stigmatisation is often a powerful motivator for behavioural change. Most humans seek to fit in to what their society regards as normal.

      I guess the other question you should be asking is if it is ethical to let the status quo continue and for the collective health of Australians continue deteriorating. Is it ethical to allow overweight to become 'normal' as it is in the USA????

      Sometimes I find this whole ethics mantra trotted out by some of you academics to be rather naive. What is ethical and what is not ethical is rarely black and white when it comes to the 'big picture'.

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  4. Margaret Rose STRINGER

    retired but interested

    Ah! - she said, brightly: my topic again…
    Although not being in the position of knowing how any other obese person reacts, I SUSPECT that today's horribly fat person doesn't react at all.
    I'm an obese person from days of yore: this means that I do not don a sleeveless blouse and skin-tight slacks and stride forth without a care. Nono! - I've spent my life doing my best to protect those around from the avoirdupois that accompanies me.
    Thus do I mean to indicate that we old-fahioned fatties might…

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  5. Melanie White

    Registered Nurse, Academic

    Great article Deborah.

    On a purely personal and anecdotal note, I sincerely doubt the impact factor of the advertising campaign. I recall when the smoking ads were on and I, a non-smoke, thought "How could anybody continue to smoke when they see this?" while my smoking friends turned off or stated they didn't care. Now, seeing this campaign, I imagine my slimmer friends will be stating "How can you do this to yourself" while I, an obese person, turns off, ignores the comments and continues on with my life.

    From a personal and anecdotal point of view, I don't recall thinking my friends were disgusting because they smoked but I did refuse to eat at outside tables because they wanted to smoke. Now, if all my friends were happy to go out to dinner and not eat dessert I'd be quite happy to follow suit. I wonder if they would skip dessert?

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  6. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Given that there is objective evidence that "yuck factor" ads either don't work or are marginally effective then I reckon that we can attribute the "yuck factor" to the mind state of health workers. In other words it is health workers who experience a "yuck" response when having to deal with smokers and the obese and this "yuck factor" has seeped into public health campaigns that position both smokers and the obese as disgusting.

    Reasonably so too. As an RN of more than twenty years standing I…

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      If you look at the ads, Anthony, you will see that the man shown is only very moderately overweight. These ads are directed at this kind of person rather than the severely obese.

      As for the disgust factor in nursing, there are very many aspects of nursing that involve dealing with disgusting bodily fluids or sights (wounds etc), most of which are not related to obesity. It goes with the territory of what is a difficult and challenging occupation.

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      In nursing you either get over being repelled by other people's bodies pretty quick or leave. The difference, though, between obese "yuck factor" and diseased or injured bodies is the perception that obesity, like smoking, is caused by self indulgent choices. So, until there is objective scientific evidence that obesity is caused by extrinsic factors then negative moral assessment of the character of the obese is likely to remain part of the terrain.

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  7. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Assuming the smokers and morbidly obese people wish to continue receiving tax payer funded public health care then perhaps they should be compelled to modify their bevaiour and subjected to scrutiny.

    After all politicians, priests and any holders of positions of responsbility are expected to allow their behaviour to be scrutinised.

    So why should we not all, as receivers of public health care (subsidized by finite public revenue), not similarly subject ourselves to life style scrutiny?

    Perhaps the level of our personal medicare levi should be subject to an annual health check on each of us as well as any dependant(s).

    There is nothing more effective than regular scrutiny to modify personal behaviour!

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    1. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg, If by 'scrutiny' you mean positive introspection conducted in the privacy of our own minds, to assess our own behaviour and identify areas that need work, well, fine, good idea.

      If instead you mean that our behaviour should be individually 'scrutinised' by some external, official body, well oh my goodness, have you been re-reading Uncle Aldous?? What a hideous society that would be. It's bad enough as it is, overrun with tiresome droning jobsworths.

      Or maybe you were being ironic? In which case ha. ha.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Diana Brown

      We are not talking about scrutiny of every aspect of our lives here Diana.

      Only scrutiny of that behaviour that is directly related an entitlement whose collective cost is directly impacted by those bad habits! I.E. Free (upfront)public health care.

      If you don't want your life choices subject to official scrutiny then give up your entitlement to free public health care and pay 100% of your own private health care!

      Then you can smoke or eat to your hearts content until it kills you.

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    3. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Well thanks for giving me permission to indulge in things that don't interest me in the slightest.

      Have you ever heard the definition of a sailor's argument? I find it instructive, maybe you will too. This is how it goes:

      l. Flat assertion
      2. Direct contradiction
      3. Personal abuse
      4. Physical violence.

      Good, eh?

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Diana Brown

      There is no direct contradiction as far as I can say with the user pays an appropriate fee principal.

      If you are not making life style choices that ultimately increase the cost of your public health care then you should pay a minimal medicare levi.

      If on the other hand you smoke, drink too much and chronically over eat junk food then you should pay a much larger medicare levi commensurate with the far greater burdon you will place on the public health system.

      The most objective method of…

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  8. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    By the way......

    Is it just me or does there seem to be a rather high proportion of fatties in here commenting that they don't care about the 'yuck' adds?

    If you really don't care, and take no interest in the adds, then why are you all going to the trouble of commenting on them in here??????

    Me thinks that you do care about the adds and that they ARE succeeding puting some level of pressure on you to think about changing your behaviour, despite your pronouncements to the contrary.

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  9. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    By the way......

    Is it just me or does there seem to be a rather high proportion of fatties in here commenting that they don't care about the 'yuck' adds?

    If you really don't care, and take no interest in the adds, then why are you all going to the trouble of commenting on them in here??????

    Me thinks that you do care about the adds and that they ARE succeeding puting some level of pressure on you to think about changing your behaviour, despite your pronouncements to the contrary.

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  10. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "They have expressed strong concern that the association of certain types of people with revolting images serves only to position these people as disgusting themselves."

    This is a form of 'scrutiny' and as I previously stated, there is nothing like scrutiny as a motivator for personal behavioural change. At least for the majority of people.

    And when they do finally succeed in modifying their behaviour they feel great about themselves and often become the harshest critics of those who retain the bad habits they have given away.

    Consider ex-smokers for example. They seem to be quite often the harshest critics of smokers!

    It is about time we gave away this academic mollycoddling attitude towards those with habits that are detrimental to society as a whole and returned to calling a spade a spade so to speak.

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  11. rory robertson
    rory robertson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    former fattie

    Dr Lupton, I agree that such explicit anti-obesity advertising can make the average person quite queasy. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. One alternative is better nutrition education, as reliable nutrition information obviously is critical in the fight against obesity, diabetes and related maladies. In turn, better nutrition information would be assisted by better quality control over what University of Sydney scientists publish in journals as fact.

    Disturbingly, the contribution of…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to rory robertson

      No doubt government legislation has a role to play as well.

      Reduction in the number of liquor licences granted, particularly in areas with a high density of liquor outlets.

      As much and all as I enjoy chocolate and chips etc occassionally, perhaps some sort of federal levy on junk food to increase the price.

      I guess you would narrowly target those obvious junk foods that are having the biggest negative health impact, e.g. fried fast food, McDonalds Hungry Jacks etc, rather than trying to classify every last food item on supermarket shelf.

      Restrictions on junk food advertising along the same lines as the above.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Clearly this type of strategy would most target those junk food suppliers who clearly do not respect their societal responsibilities, particularly with respect to children, when it comes to advertising.

      I.E. The likes of McDondalds etc

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  12. Rosemary Stanton

    Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at University of New South Wales

    I watched the three TV ads in this piece. The first was an overweight man who thought twice about taking a piece of pizza. The second was an overweight woman who decided to walk to the shops and the third was a woman who decided against buying packets of junk food snacks for her kid. None of the people were obese - so no attempt to 'rubbish' obese people. I thought that was good.

    I could see nothing disgusting about any of these three ads and could see they could possibly be very helpful to these…

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      There has been a vast number of studies conducted on people's attitudes and knowledge related to body weight, and they typically have shown that ignorance is not the problem. People do know what causes overweight. What concerns me about these ads is that they suggest that any kind of 'grabbable' flesh around the waist is evidence of dangerous overweight and that any internal fat is 'toxic'. As such, they are both imprecise as well as unethical in their tactics.

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      Deborah,
      I see two issues here that need to be addressed:
      1. Do these campaigns work
      2. Are they ethical

      1 is unknown, in that this is the start (presumably) of a long assault on our sensibilities in anti-obesity advertising. The best example of this type of campaign is the anti-smoking campaign and the anti -HIV campaign in the 80s which did have some success. perhaps it's worth trialing the anti-obesity campaign in the hope of similar gains in public health.
      2. Is this ethical. These…

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Citizen SG

      I reckon Deborah is another example of academic over think.

      We have had substantial academic over think on child discipline where parents are now afraid to touch their children lest they be charged with assault.

      The academics may have started with good intentions on the child discipline issue but in my opinion it has been taken way too far and turned into one giant farce where discipline in some schools and households has completely broken down.

      Let us not allow the academics to do the same with life style behavioural modification campaigns. And thus render governments etc too afraid to do anything about society wide health problems.

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  13. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    "Toxic fat builds up around your vital organs, releasing dangerous levels of chemicals that bring heart disease, diabetes and cancer closer."

    I'm sorry, but I just can't take this seriously at all. "Toxic fat"? "Dangerous levels of chemicals"?

    This just sounds like it's been ripped straight from the pages of Mercola or NaturalNews.

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  14. Sara Stace

    logged in via Facebook

    It would be interesting to track the overweight and obesity of West Australians several years after these advertisements have aired, to see how effective they've been.
    Perth has a slightly proportion of lower overweight / obese males than other capital cities, but still more than 50% of adult males. Women with lower education levels are 1.4 times more likely to be overweight than educated women. And Australia has the fastest growth rate for obesity of any OECD country: the proportion of overweight people is expected to rise a further 15% in the next decade (OECD projections). So anything that reduced this trend is welcome.
    One concern would be whether these 'shock and awe' campaigns are appropriate for teenage girls prone to eating disorders.
    Also, overweight is not just due to eating - physical activity is a major contributor.

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    1. Sara Stace

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sara Stace

      CORRECTION of my typo: Perth has a slightly lower proportion of overweight / obese males compared to other capital cities, but still more than 50% of adult males.

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    2. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Sara Stace

      I was overweight, not obese, and felt uncomfortable, so I took to walking. I needed no ads, shocking or otherwise. Is their some hope for a more common-sense advocacy to weight loss, without the feeling that there is a rampant do-gooder behind all this - perhaps Sea Shepherd and the large Watson?

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Also good for you.

      But unfortunately not all people have the self discipline to do something about their weight and DO require shocking and stigmaisation to motivate them to move get off their fat.......

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  15. Jennifer Lee

    Lecturer in Creative Writing, Gender Studies and Literary Studies at Victoria University

    A great article. Thank you for writing it. I find these ads highly unethical - especially in terms of a point that Sara Stace made - are these ads appropriate for teenage girls prone to eating disorders? When will public health campaigns consider mental health as part of the health spectrum? And, fear and anxiety are not good motivators for healthy behaviour either.

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  16. Byron Smith
    Byron Smith is a Friend of The Conversation.

    PhD candidate in Christian Ethics at University of Edinburgh

    Are public health campaigns based on unpleasant emotions effective?

    In 1945, 72% of Australian males smoked. By 2007 that was down to 21%. Female rates have dropped from a high of 34% down to 18%. Smoking rates in most western countries are way down from a couple of decades ago.
    http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/1-3-prevalence-of-smoking-adults

    Now, obviously, the public health campaign has only been one part of a broader set of legislative attempts to reduce the incidence of smoking, but…

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    1. Michael Glass

      Teacher

      In reply to Byron Smith

      It is rational to warn the public of dangers, and if this means evoking fear, then this is a good thing if it results in the public taking evasive action. The videos certainly evoke fear with their warnings about toxic fat, but the videos weren't stigmatising fat people. Rather, they were modelling good avoidance behaviour.

      Whenever a public health initiative shows signs of being effective, there are sure to be a whole host of knockers to warn us that there is something wrong about the initiative. So, the screams about plain packaging of cigarettes, the foot dragging about reducing the amount of sodium in our foods and the weak response of the liquor industry to calls for warning labels about the danger of consuming alcohol when pregnant.

      Certainly health messages have to be ethical. However, we should be aware that many sectional interests will fight tooth and nail to frustrate any health initiatives that might affect their profits.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Glass

      Not to mention the gambling sector and their foot dragging over mandatory personal gambling limits.

      But I doubt that Lupton is a paid mouth piece for the junk food sector.

      I suspect just an academic trying to justify per position and draw some attention to career.

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg,
      Deborah is a serial publisher of books and articles and may or may not need theconversation to promote her ideology. Howevwr, That's one of the points of this website.
      Deborah's position on this site ( I haven't read her academic pieces so can't comment) seems to be in regarding obesity as a new cultural and phenotypical norm with its attendant pleas for equity and justice. Unfortunately, any attempt to depict obesity as a modifiable health problem is howled down in protests over discrimination (not necessarily by Deborah but by other 'Fat Activists). What is worse, new statistics depicting overweight as less harmful than previously thought are used to downgrade the clear statistics that obesity is a strong predictor for multiple diseases.

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Citizen SG

      As a supposedly educated person I find it difficult the believe that she could truly believe that there is nothing wrong (health wise) with being fat.

      I find it easier to believe she is simply pandering to her appparent constituency for reasons of narrow career interest.

      Surely she cannot be one of these imbeciles who reject the irrefutable science as the anti vaccination advocates do on the issue ov child vaccination.

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    5. Byron Smith
      Byron Smith is a Friend of The Conversation.

      PhD candidate in Christian Ethics at University of Edinburgh

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Given that this article does not express an opinion about the health risks associated with obesity, I take it on face value as questioning the methods employed in public health campaigns. It is indeed a very interesting and morally relevant question as to whether disgust is an appropriate target emotion for a public health message. I appreciate the contribution to the debate and intend no slight on Prof Lupton's article when I point out that a meta-study of fear messages indicate that they are (under certain circumstances) effective in producing behavioural change. I don't pretend that that is the only measure by which we might seek to evaluate public health messages (basic honesty, other side-effects, how they fit within a broader spectrum of public messages and so on are all also relevant). This is a discussion worth having.

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  18. Deborah Lupton

    Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

    I note that there appears to be some commentary questioning my motives for writing the above piece. I guess that some people are confused by the fact that, as is obvious from my photo, unlike many writers for this forum who criticise dominant policies relating to obesity control, I am not myself 'overweight/obese' (as the preferred medical terms put it) or 'fat' (the term many writing in fat studies/critical weight studies prefer).

    Hence I am not open to the kinds of comments I have noted in response…

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    1. Byron Smith
      Byron Smith is a Friend of The Conversation.

      PhD candidate in Christian Ethics at University of Edinburgh

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      Thank you Prof Lupton. I have no question concerning your motives and am grateful that you contributed your time and experience for free on this website, furthering public discussion of an issue of some importance. As I just said above, I appreciate your raising the issue of disgust.

      I also point out in a previous comment a meta-study looking at fear in public health messages that suggested that under certain circumstances, deliberately offering (true) information that is likely to generate fear can be quite effective in behaviour modification. What do you think are the relevant similarities and differences between fear and disgust in public health discourse?

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Byron Smith

      As I pointed out previously I also believe that Deborah most likely has the best of intentions and is very unlikely to be a paid mouth piece.

      But I will also point out that this seems a lot like another push for political correctness from a member of academia.

      I used to live in the world of academia many years ago Deborah and political correctness is probably appropriate in most cases in that sphere.

      But I have been living and working in the out side for a many more years now and can confidently…

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    3. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Byron Smith

      In response to your question, Byron, I think that there are strong similarities in the use of fear and disgust in public health campaigns. Both uses are evoking a strong emotion that viewers find disturbing. Both strategies, in my opinion, need to be examined for their ethical implications. Is it really appropriate for public health authorities to take such a punitive approach? Do they really need to make people frightened about what might be happening inside their bodies, or alternatively, disgusted…

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    4. William Pinskey

      Accountant

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      "How do young children respond to such images"

      You would assume they would associate being overweight/obese as a negative. I mean, that's the point, isn't it? That being overweight is undesirable and unhealthy? The same as the disgusting smoking ads... being shown this type of stuff from a young age does foster a sense of disgust and probably a propensity to avoid smoking. Education is one thing, but when 60% of the population is overweight/obese, young'uns may need a consistent reminder that this is, in fact, not normal OR healthy. Otherwise we run the risk of normalising the overweight issue.

      Again, a line needs to be drawn. You cannot seriously propose that the solution to this obesity crisis is going to involve little/no stigmatisation. It is probably the key driving factor: the need to feel accepted is a very strong human trait.

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      You can always avert your eyes Deborah and look some where else!

      Major party political adds offend my sensibilities Deborah.

      Does that mean I can call for the banning of political adds by the major parties?????

      For god sake woman, find some worth while causes to expend you academic energies on.

      How about the economic and social effects of blatant pseudoscientific and advertising and scientific falsehoods that they peddle???? E.G. Shampoo advertising and the 'nourishing' of dead keratinised tissue!

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    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "For god sake woman, find some worth while causes to expend you academic energies on."

      Before any of you go acusing me of mysogeny, that was meant as an expression of exasperation.

      If you were a male Deborah then it would have been:

      "For god sake man, find some worth while causes to expend you academic energies on."

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      Deborah,
      I note that you ( and other commentators here incidentally) have wheeled out the inference that this type of public health message may influence the development of anorexia nervosa or bulimia in young people. I assume that you have evidence that this is the case, if so can you produce this?

      The development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia hasmany influences, of which media is but one ( and not necessarily a strong one). I suggest that the media most influential is popular magazines such…

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  19. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Well then Deborah please lay it out for us as to your precise motivations for seeking to presumeably have the above sorts of adds discontinued and what strategies you would put in their place to encourage (calling a spade a spade) fat people to modify their eating and excercising habits in order to improve their health and reduce the long term burdon they place on the health system.

    If we are to discontinue moderate ostricization of fat folks (and presumeably smokers and drinkers also) then what…

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  20. Kerry Beake

    logged in via Twitter

    Thank you for your insightful and rational article and comments Deborah.

    Sadly the same hateful, angry and closed minds have hijacked this piece without even considering A. what they are saying and B. this argument seeing if there might be merit in it or even expanding it out further. They just first assume they are right and attack from that position.

    I am thinking they clearly missed the part that says the research shows these kinds of campaigns are likely to be unsuccessful, harmful and…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Kerry Beake

      We are not talking about increasing the medicare level for anyone who has a slightly increased BMI and doesn't jog every day.

      We are talking about increasing it for those who are medically classed as obese and whose health IS effected by their weight.

      And we are not talking about increasing the medicare levi for those that are thin but have genetic predisposition to heart disease etc.

      We are talking here about health detriments that EASILY preventable by life style change.

      Of course we…

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      If we were going to pursue this type of thing then clearly a set of medical guide lines would have to be devised that consistently determines when an increased medicare levi kicks in and negates any prejudices individual doctors may hold.

      It may be difficult but I don't have much doubt that, with adequate research and time, our medical profession and medical science could do it.

      You medicare levi amount would be determined by an annual, biannual or triannual, what ever the medical profession feels appropriate, medical check up which will serve to also uncover any other health building problems early also potentially saving health dollars.

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Kerry Beake

      I find this whole notion of peple mattering more than money to be taken to a rather ludicrous degree by many people.

      Yes, people matter more than money but only up to a point around personal accountability. If you are getting something for almost free then you have a personal responsibility to minimise, as far as possible, the degree to which you will need to call on that virtually free service.

      Do several million individuals, puting it bluntly, being allowed to eat like pigs, become slobs and being given free public health care matter more than bankruptcy of the entire medicare system and probably the country along with it? I don't think so!

      If that were allowed to occur then NO ONE would be getting ANY health care at all.

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  21. Chris Colenso-Dunne

    logged in via email @hushmail.com

    'The most recent Australian anti-obesity measure, the West Australian LiveLighter campaign, features a series of shocking television advertisements, including one showing a middle-aged man in his kitchen.' ~ Deborah Lupton

    Shocking or merely hard-hitting? LiveLighter claims the latter:

    'The LiveLighter campaign is funded by the WA Health Department and run by the Heart Foundation in WA in conjunction with the Cancer Council of WA. The campaign is the first in the world to use a comprehensive…

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