The number of children and adults who suffer from obesity is growing at an alarming rate across the globe. Individuals with this condition are at risk of developing health complications such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), obesity is a grave public health challenge amid kids and adults. Over 14.2% of kids aged between 6 and 19 are overweight (Rizvi, 2015).
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Moreover, at least 19.8% of teenage in the UAE are obese (Rizvi, 2015). Youths that are overweight are at high risk of being obese in adulthood. Numerous conditions contribute to people being overweight. They include the kind of food that they eat and lack of physical exercise. Obesity can be hereditary. Kids from families where the mother, father or both parents are obese are susceptible to the same health condition (Musaiger et al., 2013).
Doctors and nutritionists recommend consumption of food with low calories to curb accumulation of fat in the body. They also encourage parents and children to engage in physical activities to burn excess body fats. Unfortunately, many families do not understand the significance of participating in physical exercise or checking on the kind of food that their kids eat (Al-Junaibi, Abdulle, Sabri, Hag-Ali, & Negelkerke, 2013). They allow children to spend a lot of time watching television or playing computer games. It denies them an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities. It is under this backdrop that we intend to launch a public relations campaign to create awareness of childhood obesity in the UAE.
The fight against childhood obesity calls for a concerted effort between parents, youths, and healthcare professionals. Children aged between 7 and 18 are at high risk of becoming obese. Physicians refer to the age below 18 as the rapid growth stage. The child’s body generates new cells at a higher rate than it disposes of the old ones. It underscores the reason why kids grow in height and size rapidly.
According to Al Foteih (2018), children aged below 18 should avoid consuming excess glucose because it may expose them to the danger of becoming overweight. Parents may not manage to control what their kids eat. Thus, it is imperative to educate teenagers on the issue of childhood obesity and enlighten them on how they can avoid developing the condition. The campaign will serve as a deterrent mechanism. It will aid in educating youths about the dangers of childhood obesity and the factors that expose them to the condition.
Parents contribute to their children being obese. They fail to encourage them to partake in outdoor activities (Al-Junaibi, Abdulle, & Nagelkerke, 2013). Instead, they allow them to spend a lot of time either on social media or playing games on play stations. Moreover, many parents do not understand the significance of eating healthy food. Thus, they buy junk foods for their kids and encourage them to consume drinks that are rich in calories.
The public relations campaign wishes to create awareness amid parents on their role in the fight against childhood obesity. The campaign will also target the Ministry of Health as it must be in the forefront in promoting healthy eating. It will equip representatives from the department with skills in how to reach the public and inform it about the dangers of the health condition. The ministry will also use the campaign to gather information regarding public perceptions of childhood obesity. The data will assist the government in formulating intervention mechanisms to avert the health concern.
At the start, the campaign will be conducted in two sessions. The first session will be held during summer. We intend to organize a summer camp between 1st July and 31st August 2018. It will help in making sure that we reach as many children as possible. The second session will be held between 1st September and 31st November this year. The outcomes of the campaign will determine if we can make it an annual event.
Research shows that the majority of chronic illnesses arise due to people making wrong lifestyle choices (Yousef, Eapen, Zoubeidi, & Mabrouk, 2014). Currently, over 41 million children are suffering from obesity worldwide (Zaln, 2017). The number is expected to be over 70 million by 2025 (Zaln, 2017). There is the need to change the current societal behaviors to ensure that the obese population does not rise.
The problems attributed to childhood obesity do not affect families only. Yousef et al. (2014) claim that the UAE spends over $6 billion annually to treat conditions associated with childhood obesity. Ali et al. (2013) argue that it is hard for parents to realize that their children are gaining weight because it happens over time. Thus, the only way to ensure that children do not become obese is by ensuring that they eat a balanced diet (Al Foteih, 2018).
The fact that obesity has dire impacts both in childhood and adulthood calls for the creation of awareness amid the public. The primary objective of this campaign is to raise the number of people who understand the issue of childhood obesity by 10%. It will go a long way towards ensuring that families protect their children from developing the condition.
In the UAE, technology growth has made it possible for most households to access the Internet. Today, most youths spend a lot of time on the Internet. Hence, online platforms can be useful in creating awareness regarding childhood obesity and its effects not only on a family but also the country. Another objective of this public relations campaign is to increase the number of people who discuss the problem online. We intend to realize at least 15,000 online impressions by the closure of the campaign. Additionally, the campaign seeks to increase the number of followers in our Don’t Weight Instagram page by at least 200.
The food options that schools provide contribute to children gaining weight. According to Lane (2015), schools in the UAE continue to introduce varieties of processed foods into their menu and to do away with vegetables and fruits. Furthermore, they do not discourage the distribution of fast-foods that are rich in calories in their canteens. The factors that lead to schools preferring processed foods include their extended shelf life and low prices.
We have realized that the effort by many schools to reduce the cost of food is exposing children to the danger of being overweight, thus suffering from obesity. The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of schools that offer healthy food by at least 10%. The campaign will enlighten the school administrators on the dangers of serving processed foods to children. It will also inform them about alternative sources of healthy foods that are cost-effective.
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We propose to use a variety of approaches to ensure that the campaign reaches as many people as possible. They include summer camp, fall school tour, social media, and radio and newspaper.
We will set up a summer camp from 1st July to 31st August. Children aged between 7 and 18 are at high risk of becoming overweight (Al-Haddad, Little, & Ghafoor, 2005). Hence, the summer camp will target this group of audience. We appreciate that during summer most kids are at home. Thus, organizing a camp at this period will enable us to reach many children. The purpose of the summer camp is to engage kids in different wellness-based activities and to enlighten them on the importance of being physically active.
Most children buy junk foods from kiosks or vendors. Therefore, we will ensure that we avail health food trucks and booths in the camp to enable kids to differentiate them from those that offer unhealthy fast-foods. Kids will be taken through different exercise classes to train them in the various ways that they can use to remain physically fit.
Engaging children in wellness-based activities will enable them to not only understand the issue of childhood obesity but also eternalize behaviors that can keep them healthy. The teenagers will participate in different games, competitions, and painting sessions as a way to enable them to understand the campaign theme. Additionally, various performing artists and bands will be invited to keep the youths active.
Fall School Tour
Nutritionists hold that schools play an essential role in the fight against childhood obesity. A concerted effort between parents and school administrations can help to nurture a healthy eating habit amid children (Lane, 2015). Al-Blooshi et al. (2016) aver, “When children are consistently taught the same values about healthy eating at school and at home, they learn that nutrition is important” (p. 199). Therefore, we propose to visit numerous schools within Dubai to sensitize students and the administration on childhood obesity.
The fall school tour will start on 1st November and end on 30th of the same month. The trip will constitute numerous events, which include lectures, shows, and activities. We will invite nutritionists, trainers, and other professionals with experience in healthy eating and childhood obesity to speak to students and school administrators. The students will have an opportunity to learn about childhood obesity and how to avoid it. On the other hand, the school administration will understand its contribution to the fight against childhood obesity. We will organize for various physical activities and sports events to encourage teenagers to stay active.
In most cases, people understand and eternalize things if they learn them from individuals who have firsthand experience. Kids are likely to appreciate the importance of engaging in physical exercise if they hear from persons who have suffered from childhood obesity. Hence, we plan to invite individuals who have surmounted obesity to speak to students. They will have a chance to share their experience with kids and explain how they coped or overcame the health issue. It will go a long way towards encouraging children to exercise due to fear of going through a similar ordeal.
Social media is an essential tool in the fight against childhood obesity. The study shows that at least 51% of kids use social network platforms every day (Ashrafian et al., 2014). Many teenagers, particularly girls who are overweight are embarrassed to talk about the issue with their friends or parents. Social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat would offer an excellent opportunity for kids to meet and discuss the health issue freely.
They would not require sharing their names, thus being able to talk unreservedly. We propose to establish a Facebook page that will offer teenagers suffering from obesity a chance to interact and share tips on how to cope with the condition. The page will also inform the youths about healthy eating ideas and how to lose weight. Musaiger et al. (2013a) maintain, “Kids who are overweight often feel like they are all alone” (p. 8).
Visiting social media and reading posts from other children who suffer from the same condition will make them change their opinion regarding childhood obesity. In many cases, people opt to relate to those with similar problems. Therefore, the creation of an Instagram that champions the fight against childhood obesity will bring together children suffering from this health issue. If one of the kids appears to make positive changes, others will be motivated to emulate his/her behaviors.
Social media can serve as a useful learning tool because it supports different modes of communication. Our public relations campaign will use social media to disseminate knowledge about healthy eating and living. We will liaise with nutritionists to assist parents to understand what constitutes a balanced diet. We will share information about how to monitor and manage kids’ eating habits. We intend to organize for events on a regular basis to make sure that children remain physically active. Information regarding upcoming events will be communicated through social media. Moreover, we will use social networks to interact with the community and understand its progress in the fight against childhood obesity.
Radio and Newspaper
Many youths do not listen to the radio or read newspapers. Thus, these modes of communication will target mainly the parents. Research shows that parents play a critical role in averting childhood obesity. According to Musaiger et al. (2013b), most children become overweight because parents allow them to eat junk food. Some parents argue that it is more expedient to eat from fast-food joints than to prepare food at home.
Failure by parents to assist their kids to make healthy choices results in children becoming obese (Al Foteih, 2018). Many families do not allow children to engage in outdoor activities. They argue that letting kids go out exposes them to bad influence from their neighbors. Hence, children spend many hours either watching television or playing computer games. They do not engage in physical activities. We have learned that for parents to help in the fight against obesity, they must be role models to their kids.
The campaign will use radio and newspapers to educate parents on the importance of healthy eating. We will discourage them from eating junk food as it contributes to children preferring the same meals. We are confident that kids will change their feeding habits if they find that their parents are eating healthy. We shall organize for radio programs where parents can share opinions regarding their health.
Additionally, we will invite professors and doctors to educate the community on how to live a healthy life and to protect children from being overweight. Encouraging parents to be involved in outdoor activities will go a long way towards protecting children from becoming obese. Kids are likely to embrace physical exercise if they learn it from their parents. We will use radio stations such as Virgin Radio 104.4 to urge parents and youths to embrace physical exercise. One of the factors that have contributed to society neglecting physical activities is the lack of enough recreation facilities, particularly in the residential areas (Zaln, 2017).
We will persuade architects and civil engineers to ensure that they leave room for the construction of recreation facilities whenever they are coming up with urban or residential plans. We will use newspapers to inform the public about upcoming events and activities. Advertisements will be published in major newspapers two weeks in advance to give parents and kids enough time to prepare for the events. We will also provide press kits to journalists and request them to participate in our summer camp session and fall school tour. It will help to publicize the events, therefore reaching many people.
Financial limitations do not allow us to use expensive media to promote our campaign. Hence, we intend to use flyers as one of our primary ways of communicating with the community. One of the benefits of using brochures is that they will enable us to reach many people. We will distribute them on the streets of Dubai. Additionally, we shall organize for a door to door delivery through mails. The newspaper companies will also play a critical role in the distribution of flyers.
We shall insert copies of the brochures in newspapers to enable us to increase our coverage. The use of this mode of communication will pave room for creativity. We will make sure that the leaflets distinctively promote the events to draw the attention of our target audience. Moreover, we shall have brochures that educate the public on how to cope with obesity and to guarantee that children are healthy.
In Dubai, there are multiple bulletin boards in strategic locations such as grocery stores, libraries, health clubs, and schools. The boards will serve as an essential mode of communication for our public relations campaign. A couple of leaflets will be pinned on the bulletin boards to inform the public about the upcoming events. Moreover, we will display articles on healthy eating and the significance of physical exercise on public notice boards, especially in schools and libraries. Ashrafian et al. (2014) argue, “If you place a slick, glossy, colorful, and cleverly worded poster on the board, everyone will dismiss it as outside the scope of the community-focused material” (p. 128). Thus, we will place hand-written notices on bulletin boards to draw the attention of the public.
Posters offer a rational and cheap method of speaking to a specific target audience. We will use attractive signs to alert the public of the upcoming events such as the summer camp. The posters will also enable us to create awareness on the rise of childhood obesity. Some posters will bear images of kids with obesity. It will help to arouse curiosity amid the public and encourage them to learn more about the health condition. We will stick posters in different locations including bus stops, schools, mosques, and health centers. Our posters will bear a call-to-action phrase to encourage the audience to assume responsibility for their health and that of their children.
The use of images in advertising helps to capture the attention of the target listeners. Additionally, it enables people to envisage the message being communicated. Our posters and brochures will contain images that can draw the attention of passersby. Images of youths engaging in physical activities will grab the attention of teenagers, hence ensuring that they read the posters. In the process, they will learn about our upcoming events and the importance of being physically fit.
Journalists and media houses will play a critical role in ensuring that our campaign reaches many people. Hence, we will prepare press kits that will comprise information regarding our upcoming events, dangers of the health condition, and measures that parents and youths can take to remain healthy. The packages will be issued to media personalities to encourage them to write articles regarding the health problem. They will also have pertinent images that journalists can include in their reports.
Activity props are essential materials during outdoor events. They help children to understand the theme and activities of the day. Activity props will be useful during the summer camp. They will offer directions to young children and encourage them to take part in physical exercises. The props will be in the form of infographics meant to amuse children and persuade them to partake in day’s activities.
We do not have sufficient fund to run a comprehensive public relations campaign. Thus, we will try as much as possible to reduce our costs. On average, we expect the entire campaign not to spend more than 80,000 AED.
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