retail news in context, analysis with attitude

AFP reports that Pierre Dukan, described as France’s “top diet guru” and a bestselling author, is calling for the French government “to grade students on their weight in a bid to curb growing obesity ... Dukan suggests that students in their last two years of high school be awarded extra marks if they manage to maintain an acceptable Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight.”

Dukan says that such an approach would be “a good way to sensitise teenagers to the need for a balanced diet,” and denied that it would punish overweight children: “There is nothing wrong with educating children about nutrition. This will not change anything for those who do not need to lose weight. For the others, it will motivate them.”

Here’s the irony: AFP notes that France “remains among the lowest-ranked European countries in terms of obesity, with 12.7 percent of women and 11.7 percent of men considered obese, according to a study released by the European Union's statistics agency in November.”

Meanwhile, in Georgia - a state with one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the US - Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is out with a controversial series of commercials trying to draw attention to what it sees as a dire state of affairs there.

The ads and commercials are in the vein of dramatic anti-tobacco ads, and feature obese children bemoaning the fact that they can’t play with other children, are made fun of by other kids, or have parents who ignore their obesity until they develop diabetes.

Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, says: "We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there."

The campaign has generated a lot of strong reactions, including some from parents who believe that it is over-the-top and runs the risk of further alienating obese children and turning them into objects of fun.
KC's View:
Y’think the Atlanta ads are controversial? Just try suggesting that US kids should get graded on their BMI during their last two years of high school. That’ll cause a riot in some school districts.

I think that schools have a role in educating kids about nutritional issues, and that includes serving healthy food in cafeterias, providing appropriate classes, and also returning physical education to a prominent position in the curriculum. But grading kids on their bodies? That’d be really dangerous. (It also ignores the other problem, which is teenaged girls so focused on their bodies that they develop eating disorders.)

As for the Atlanta ads ... I understand why some people are sensitive, but I really don’t think they are that bad. Tough, but hardly over-the-top.

But you can make up your own mind. You can see the ads here.