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Dear Carter’s —

February 15, 2012
by

Carter’s, the clothing store for infants, toddlers and children, has donated over $100,000 to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the organization running Strong4Life’s advertising campaign, which has been condemned by the National Institutes of Health (PDF), Kaiser Permanente, the National Eating Disorders Association, the Obesity Action Coalition, and the Academy of Eating Disorders.

The ad campaign, which uses shame and stigma to encourage health lifestyle changes, runs the risk of doing severe, long-term psychological damage to the children they target, according to the NIH:

[T]his campaign carries a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating). A number of research studies over the last decade have supported this concern. For example, studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.

Rather than ending this phase of their campaign, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has removed all billboards except those in the poorest, urban areas of Atlanta. We strongly believe that this strategy has taken an already troubling campaign and turned into a vile exploitation of the most vulnerable populations.

We believe that the philosophy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life campaign is in direct opposition to the philosophy of Carter’s. We are asking Carter’s to end all current and future financial support for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta until they end this campaign in EVERY neighborhood, and not just the affluent or suburban areas.

We will continue to tie Carter’s to Strong4Life until they have announced their intention to stop supporting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

If you support our boycott, please email Carter’s at contactus@carters.com and on their Facebook page.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 12:22 am

    Done and Done! Thanks for giving me the information to speak out against this.
    Warmly,
    Dr. Deah

  2. Lauren permalink
    February 16, 2012 11:25 am

    Do you not realize that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta helps thousands of very sick and in need children every year?! This campaign has nothing to do with the cancer, cleft palette, transplant and other types of patients. Asking Carter’s, whose generosity has nothing to do with this campaign, to stop donating is directly hurting those children. I’m not necessarily for this campaign, but I am for helping children in need. Shame on you for not researching the positive things that Children’s does in our community.

    • February 16, 2012 11:48 am

      Lauren,
      I am well aware of the positive things that CHOA does, which is why this boycott is going to be difficult. But we are not asking Carter’s to reclaim any of the resources they have already donated, only to commit to not investing more resources until the Strong4Life campaign ends.

      The fact that the physicians and healthcare practitioners at CHOA do excellent work is not up for debate, though. CHOA’s decision to respond to the NIH condemnation by targeting poor children from urban neighborhoods is reprehensible. It belies a willful disregard for the health problems that their campaign causes (which the NIH outlined), as well as a disdain for the most vulnerable population in this country: poor children.

      Our fight is with the administration of CHOA, those like Dr. Stephanie Walsh who also expresses an understanding of the damage that stigma has on children, yet continues to publicly defend these ads in spite of the long-term psychological damage that they are inflicting.

      Just as we are holding Dr. Walsh accountable for talking out of both sides of her mouth, we are holding all of CHOA accountable for the damage they are doing to children and the oath they have taken to do no harm.

      We cannot disentangle the overwhelming good works that CHOA has done in the past from this monumental assault on the health and welfare of fat children. We have provided a ton of research on why their campaign is harmful, we have the NIH denouncing this campaign, we have experts on stigma and obesity saying this is the campaign will do more harm than good, and we have scores of former fat children say, “This kind of campaign is what triggered many of my unhealthy behaviors,” and CHOA’s response isn’t to re-evaluate their strategy, but to try and deceive the public into thinking they’ve done so, while attacking poor kids.

      So, if they won’t listen to reason, then we have to move toward a punishment that they cannot ignore: financial divestment. And unless CHOA plans to continue Phase 1 indefinitely, then this financial incentive is only temporary and they will return to raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from Coca-Cola and Golden Corral soon enough.

      Until then, we are treating all of CHOA as the organization responsible for the Strong4Life campaign and will do everything in our power to put pressure on them to end Phase 1 and bring down every single billboard.

      Peace,
      Shannon

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