Researchers with Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have published a study purportedly assessing the effectiveness of “major obesity public health campaigns from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.” R. Puhl, et al., “Fighting obesity or obese persons? Public perceptions of obesity-related health messages,” International Journal of Obesity, September 2012. After showing a random selection of 10 obesity related messages to “a nationally representative example of 1014 adults,” the study’s authors reported that participants responded most favorably “to messages involving themes of increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and general messages involving multiple health behaviors.” In particular, those messages that made no mention “obesity” but instead focused on general behaviors and empowerment were rated as more motivating by surveyed adults, while campaigns that “implied personal responsibility and blame… received the more negative/less positive ratings among participants.”

“This suggests that messages intended to motivate individuals to be healthier may be more effective if framed in ways that foster confidence and selfefficacy to engage in health behaviors rather than in ways that imply personal blame or solitary effort,” concludes the study. “In contrast to messages that received positive ratings, participants responded most negatively to messages that were coded as stigmatizing… These messages were ascribed the most negative characteristics, the least positive characteristics, and were rated as the least motivating among all other messages.”