The ‘Stop the Spread’ campaign
This week, the EU initiative SafeFood launched a new anti-obesity campaign in Ireland. The campaign titled ‘Stop the Spread’ paints overweight as a contagious disease and creates a dangerous focus on body size. The aim of the campaign is to address the ‘obesity epidemic’ by getting adults to measure their waists. The Safefood website states that having a waist size greater than 32 inches for a woman or 37 inches for a man is a clear indication that a person is carrying excess weight. There is no discussion of the fact that bodies naturally differ in size and shape and that a person’s waist measurement is not an indicator of their health.
The images in the accompanying TV advert are of perfectly happy and healthy people of different ages meeting up with friends and having dinner with their families. If it wasn’t for the creepy voiceover and sinister background music I might not have suspected there was anything wrong with them. However the ad warns: ‘We are all in the grip of an epidemic. Most of us already have it and we are rapidly passing it on to others’. While the SafeFood campaign may be a well-intentioned attempt to promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle, it misses the point and the message it conveys is closer to ‘Don’t be friends with fat people’.
Promoting weight stigma seems to be a running theme from Safefood. Their previous Weigh2live campaign characterized overweight individuals as selfish, lazy and all-round unlovable people.
It also seems a little suspicious that the campaign is endorsed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Ulster Chemists Association and the Professional Forum of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland. The campaign will be supported by pharmacies and chemists across the island of Ireland where consumers can pick up one of 250,000 free measuring tapes from next week in participating outlets (and it’s just a happy coincidence if they happen to spend money on weight-loss products while they are in there).