Childhood obesity

1. Introduction

Dramatic increasees in childhood obesity is alarming regarding to UK have many health professionals concerned in the United Kingdom. Future health complications of obese children include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high lipid levels (BBC 2009Ref 0000). These chronic diseases can lead to premature death and are extremely costly to treat for the NHS health care.and can lead to premature death. Several studies have demonstrated that obese children will become obese adults in the future.

NHS (2009) asserted,“It is predicted that by 2025, 14% of young people under the age of 20 will be classed as obese.”

This statement highlights that child obesity is a serious problem in the UK and any action has to be taken urgently in order to be taken to prevent tragic consequences in the futurethe future negative outcomes.

In the followingis studyreport, we would like to propose a campaign targetingon child obesity, a campaign that wouldcan effectively communicate wittoh the public the dangers of the current situation and encouragepersuade it them to modifychange their attitudes and behaviours. Firstly, this paper focuses on the review of the issue known as ‘child obesity'. Secondly, it will discuss two theories applied in the proposedour campaign:; cognitive dissonance and guilt appeal and how they have been used to accomplish campaign objectives. The last section will give recommendations to government supportingrelated to theour campaign.

2. Literature review

2.1. What is obesity?

Obesity is the state of being seriously overweight - to a degree that affects your health (BBC 2009). It is a condition where weight gain has got to the point that it poses a serious threat to health (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005). It is measured in terms of a person's body mass index (bmi, see box 1) which is determined both by weight and height (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005). BMImi cut-off points have been agreed for obese and overweight adults, but for children the situation is more complex (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005). Because a child's BMIbmi varies with age, different cut-off points have to be used to define overweight and obese children depending on age. (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005).

2.2 Trends in child obesity in the United Kingdom

According to Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2005), the following trends have been discovered.

* Obesity among children has increased overall between 1995 and 2007 while the prevalence of overweight has remained at similar levels. Overall, in 2007, around three in ten children were classed as either overweight or obese.

* In 2007/08, around one in ten pupils in reception year were classified as obese (9.6%). This compares to around a fifth of pupils in Year 6 (18.3%).

* Girls in the lowest income group were more likely to be obese compared to those in the highest income group. No clear relationships were found for boys.

2.3. Causes

Obesity occurs when an individual takes in more energy than they expend, although some people are genetically more susceptible than others (BBC 2009). The rise in obesity has been too rapid to be attributed to genetic factors, and must thus reflect changes in eating patterns and levels of physical activity (BBC 2009). Obesity is caused by two simple factors- an unhealthy diet, typically too rich in sugar and fats and not enough fibre and carbohydrate, and not doing enough exercise to burn off calories consumed (BBC 2009).

Dietary factors

Poor diet and nutrition are recognised as major contributory factor for overweight and obesity among children.

* Research in 2004 found that as well as fruit and vegetables, less healthy options such as burgers, chips, cakes and muffins were regularly served in secondary schools across the country (NHS 2009).

* These less healthy options were found to be the most popular choices among the pupils, with vegetables and salads, fruit and fruit juices the least popular (NHS 2009).

* More than four in five children considered their diets to be either ‘quite healthy' or ‘very healthy'. The majority of children agreed with the statement ‘Healthy foods are enjoyable' (NHS 2009).

* Similar patterns were found among children from low income households to adults. Boys were more likely to consume foods such as burgers and kebabs and girls were more likely to consume foods such as rice, salads and fruit (NHS 2009).

Physical Activity

Changes in patterns of physical activity and the adoption of more sedentary lifestyles are also likely to be important factors behind obesity (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005).

* A decline in the number of young people playing sport at school.

* A fall in the proportion of children walking to school.

* A decline in the proportion of children cycling to school.

* A possible rise in sedentary pastimes such as watching TV, playing computer games or accessing internet.

2.4. Risk factors and consequences

Obesity is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2005).

* Diabetes: An obese woman is almost 13 times more likely to develop diabetes, than a woman who is not obese (NHS 2009).

* Heart disease

* Cancers

* Osteoarthritis and back pain

* Social and psychological consequences: including stigmatisation, discrimination and prejudice. Research has linked obesity with low self-image, low self-confidence and depression in children and adults.

2.5. Children (Parents) attitudes and behaviour towards obesity (Problem)

Need to work on it. Just skip this part. Research above has shownshows that most children do believe their eating habits and diet are considered to be healthy. Parents are the one

3. Audience Profiling

3.1. Segmentation Approach

The role of parents is crucialsignificantly important when it comes to childhood obesity, as they are the one responsible for children's health and diet. The close involvement of parents is essential in an overall strategy for improving children's diets and levels of physical activity. Therefore, the proposed campaign is meant we have decided to target parents as major public.for our campaign in order to reduce the constant increase in obesity among children in the UK.

Segmentation approaches used:

* Geo-demographic

This segmentation approach is based on the notionidea that people who live close to one another are likely to have similar financial means, tastes, preferences, lifestyles, and consumption habits (Schiffman & Kanuk 2007).

* Psychographics

Psychographic segmentation identifies consumers and divides them into a number of different groups by their measured activit i es, interests and opinions. The psychographic profile of a consumer segment can be thought of as a composite of consumers' measured activities, interests, and opinions (Schiffman & Kanuk 2007).

3.2. Target Audience

Based on two different segmentation approaches, we have identified our target audience as followings.


Areas where As can be seen figure below, poor a reas through out the UK tend to have more obese childpeople live with lower income tend to have more obese children than other cities (NHS 2009). It has been observed that these children would often come from price and bargain shoppers' families as they belong to low-income groups. In addition, they are more likely to prefer fastfood which is low-priced and inexpensive instant food due to their economic situations. Due to poordeprived financial situations ren than any other cities.


Research above has shown that main causes of child obesity is main causes of child obesity areare poor diet and lack of physical activity, t. Therefore, theour target audience are parents who take care of children with unhealthy diet habits and lack of exercise routines. It has been observed that these children would often come from price and bargain shoppers' families Additionally, people are more likely to be price and bargain shoppers as they belong to low-income groups.

4. Theories

4.2. Cognitive Dissonance


Festinger developed cognitive dissonance theory in 1957 (Perloff 1993). The theory states that discomfort or dissonance occurs when a consumer holds conflicting thoughts about a belief or an attitude object (Festinger 1957 cited Perloff 1993). Dissonance is described as the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. When an individual experiences cognitive dissonance, he/she looks for consistency among their cognitions There is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions(Perloff 1993). This highlights that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours (Festinger 1957 cited Perloff 1993). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes and behaviours, something must change to eliminate the dissonance. ThusHence, cognitive dissonance is a powerful motivator that will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action (Festinger 1957 cited Perloff 1993). The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. C

Cognitive dissonance is also central to many forms of persuasion to change beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours. Therefore, cognitive dissonance will be an effective tool to use in the campaign.The tension can be injected or allowed to build up over time.

Linkage between cognitive dissonance the theory and the proposedour campaign:

Cognitive dissonance has been shown to affect attitudes and behaviour by creating inconsistent cognitions within individuals (Draycott & Dabbs 1998). By causing parents to feel cognitive dissonance between their attitudes and behaviour towards diet offor their children, they would be more likely to reassess their eating patternsfeeding intentions. After encountering cognitive dissonance, an individual parent may realise increased levels of risk and worry regarding their negative health behaviours, which, in turn, could help to influence positive behavioural intentions.

Parents would feel the need to reduce any dissonance that they feel between their attitudes and behaviours of nurturing their children. Our campaign will focus on the message that can actively help parents change their diet to children's diet. The dissonance that one feels can have a varying impact on behavioural intentions, depending on the circumstances associated with the dissonance.

In campaign

* To s Show parents the gap between what they think and what they do

* To e Expose target audiences to their own hypocrisy

Dissonance between parents' attitude and behaviour

Attitude: “ ‘ Giving burgers or sweets to children is unhealthy and is one of main factors that cause obesity. ” '

Behaviour: “ Feeding them burgers and sweets because my kids love it and I cannot disappoint them ” .

4.3. Guilt appeal


Ghingold (1980) asserts that cognitive dissonance theory provides a theoretical structure for understanding guilt-induced behaviour; thus, it is easy to see the linkage between guilt and dissonance. When an individual experiences feelings of guilt, he or she can also experience dissonant cognition and will attempt to reduce the feeling of guilt by making retributions (Ghingold 1980). According to Izard (1977:451),

“Guilt results from one's violation of an internalized moral, ethical, or religious code and is the emotion most essential to the development of conscience and moral behaviour.”

It is also an internal emotional response and one of the most common negative feelings across culture (Izard 1977).

Three types of reactions to guilt:

There are three types of reactions to guilt identified in the literature:; anticipatory, reactive and existential (Rawlings 1970). Firstly, Anticipatory guilt is experienced as one contemplates a potential violation of internalized standards (Rawlings 1970). Anticipatory guilt occurs where a person thinks about violating standards. Anticipatory guilt appeals offer people an opportunity to avoid a transgression transgression. It may add that if the opportunity is neglected, an unwanted outcome will occur that people could have prevented.

Secondly, Rawlings (1970) calls Reactive referred reactive guilt as a response to having violated one's own standards of acceptable behaviour. A failure to help previously could evoke guilt and thus this may have an influence on behaviour. Godek and LaBarge (2006) indicate that Rreactive guilt is more negative than anticipatory guilt due to its reference to past negative events. Thus, it is more likely to evoke unintended emotions (Coulter et al. 1999) such as anger and irritation, and this may have a negative effect on behaviour.

E Lastly, existential guilt is experienced due to a discrepancy between one's well-being and the well-being of others (Izard 1977). Existential guilt is widely used in the social sciences context. In fact, over 85% of charities and non-profits use this type of guilt appeal (Huhmann and Brotherton 1997). The continuous bombardmentflooduse of this type of guilt appeal may limit the effectiveness of the advertisements due to viewers constantly learning about the advertiser's persuasion techniques (Friestad and Wright 1994).

Linkage between g G uilt Linkage between the theory and theour proposed campaign:

Our persuasive campaign targetingof childhood obesity playuses human being strong reaction tos on the feeling of guilt. This campaign transmits the message that parents of obese children should be aware of that they are the one who are responsible for their children's health and diet. It is considerably important to emphasise parents' responsibility because the feeling of responsibility is the centramajorl guilt inducing feeling in our conscience and makes possible behaviour that minimizes intense experiential guilt (Izard 1977). In addition, the experience of guilt can bind the person to the source of guilt and only can be released through resolution that tends to restore social harmony (Izard 1977).

Particularly, a A anticipatory guilt has been used in the advertisement, as it is viewed as a more positive form of guilt as it leadings to action as a mean of avoiding the feeling of guilt (Rawlings 1970 cited in Lindsey 2005). The campaignIn the ad it offers to the individuals/public a chance with the ability to preventhelp safeguard against a potential disaster. A Ffailure to help could induce a guilty feeling, but thehowever individuals/the public being also the individuals in the advertising campaign are given the opportunity to avoid the feeling of guilt. Thus, it is suggested that, Aanticipatory guilt is considered as the most positive and result-yearning guilt feelingto be more positive than other types of guilt. It can also have a positive influence on behaviour.

C In c ampaign Goals

* T Intend to arise an anticipatory guilt in target audience's minds

* Offer an opportunity to avoid unwanted future consequences results and a the feeling of guilt y feeling


“If you keep feeding your children the way you do now, your children will be obese and overweight in the future and give you a reproachful look.”

5. Campaign

5.1. Campaign Objectives

* To attract people's attention & interest toof the issue by the use of strong visuals

* To generate traffic to the website

* To change parents' behaviours

5.2. Campaign Execution

This is one of the visuals that will be used in the campaign. As it is explained before , cognitive dissonance and guilt appeal have been applied.

Cognitive Dissonance

In campaign

* To show parents the gap between what they think and what they do

* To expose target audiences to their own hypocrisy

Dissonance between parents' attitude and behaviour

Attitude: “ Giving burgers or sweets to children is unhealthy and is one of main factors that cause obesity. ”

Behaviour: “ Feeding them burgers and sweets because my kids love it and I cannot disappoint them ” .

Guilt appeal

* To arise an anticipatory guilt in target audience's minds

* Offer an opportunity to avoid unwanted future consequences and a guilty feeling

Campaign Message

“If you keep feeding your children the way you do now, your children will be obese and overweight in the future and give you a reproachful look.”

6. Limitations

H uman persuasion process is so complex tha t it does not work that simple. There is a number of limitations that the theories have.

Cognitive dissonance

T he weakness of this concept is its effectiveness is dependent on the audience. Perloff (1993:235) assert ed, “All persuasion is fundamentally self-persuasion . ” It means that an individual him self /herself is the actual one who makes a decision. Moreover, people selectively process information they receive and ignore information which they think does not relate to them. Altho u gh the campaign tries to persuade the target audience, if parents do not rationalize and instead completely denies that there is anything wrong with the way they give food to their children , then they will not experience the inconsistency of beliefs and only hold what they think as true. Therefore, the targeted parents will not have cognitive dissonance.

Guilt appeal

Alt hough explicit guilt appeal may create greater guilt, they may also arouse other negative that inte rfere with persuasive success (O'Keefe 0000) . It seems that guilt appeal can also evoke reactions such as anger and annoyance . The possibility of arousal of all the feelings at once will be less powerful to change the target audience's attitudes and behaviours.

7. Conclusion

Childhood obesity has become a substantial social problem to deal with because it can lead to premature death in the future. In order to raise awareness of childhood obesity and encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviours towards the issue, the campaign has applied two theories: cognitive dissonance theory and guilt appeal. Campaign tends to cause parents to feel cognitive dissonance between their attitudes and behaviour towards diet of their children so that they would be more likely to reassess their eating patterns. With cognitive dissonance theory, as parents are the one who should be responsible for children's health and diet, the campaign will emphasise on parents' responsibility by arising the feeling of guilt in their minds. It attempts to make the target audience feel guilty to influence their behaviour.

We strongly believe that the campaign will be most effective to change the target audience 's attitudes and behaviours towards childhood obesity. If we can evoke guilt successfully through this campaign, we can develop our campaign further by offering the target audience solutions to minimise the feeling of guilt .

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