Associate Professor Timothy Edgar comments on health campaign issues

February 10, 2012

Associate Professor Timothy Edgar has been featured recently by several news outlets for his expertise on ethical and moral issues involved in public health campaigns.

ABC World News recently spoke with Edgar for a report on a campaign aimed at curbing childhood obesity in Georgia that has created controversy. Some detractors think the campaign is too blunt and “blames the victims.” One advertisement also features an overweight child claiming to have diabetes who, in reality, doesn’t. Edgar voiced his ethical concerns about the practice. “I would be concerned that if somebody finds out that she doesn’t have diabetes, that it could undermine the campaign,” Edgar told ABC News.

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In a USA Today story on another controversial diabetes campaign, Edgar again voiced his concerns with campaigns misleading people to get a point across. The campaign involved a poster in New York City subways that pictures a heavy man who appears to be missing part of one leg shown with three increasingly super-sized sodas. “Portions have grown. So has type 2 diabetes, which can lead to amputations,” the poster reads. “Cut your portions. Cut your risk.” But the man in the advertisement is a model who actually has two healthy legs. His “amputation” was caused not by diabetes but by a photo editor. Edgar told USA Today that using an actor was “a huge mistake” that might overshadow the health message.

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My Health News Daily also reported that recent public health campaigns have featured stories and images of people claiming to be suffering from obesity and diabetes who are actors instead of real people affected by the diseases. Edgar argued that health campaigns should not deceive the public in this way. “I think it really hurts the credibility of a campaign when they’re using actors,” he told the My Health reporter. “If it’s not unethical, it’s certainly on thin ice, and the ice has a crack in it.”

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