Program background

In 2011, the WA Department of Health contracted Heart Foundation WA, in partnership with Cancer Council WA, to run a new public health education program. The aim was to encourage people to eat well, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. In June 2012, LiveLighter was born. It was developed based on reviews of the scientific literature on social marketing campaigns, behaviour change theory and the medical consequences of overweight and obesity. 

LiveLighter incorporates the key messages of previous healthy lifestyle campaigns such as Go for 2&5 and Find 30. In 2014, the campaign extended to Victoria and is currently delivered by Cancer Council Victoria.

In addition to mass media advertising, the LiveLighter program engages with Australian adults through social media, online information, resources and tools, and printed tools and resources. From the beginning, LiveLighter has also been pushing for environmental changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice. LiveLighter works with retailers, universities, community organisations and all levels of government to make this happen.

LiveLighter is about:

  • Getting people to stop and think about their health now and consider the consequences of not following a healthy lifestyle
  • Giving people the skills to make small (or big!) lifestyle changes to improve their health
  • Kickstarting the conversation and supporting community efforts to change the food and physical activity environment 

Why do we use confronting images?

LiveLighter ads can be seen as graphic and confronting. Evidence suggests that emotive and attention grabbing ads are one of the most effective ways to deliver public education campaigns. There is evidence that says showing people the harms to their health associated with carrying excess weight, being inactive and not eating well, will get the greatest response. This means greater potential for more people to see their health as important enough to make positive and sustainable lifestyle choices.  

LiveLighter is committed to regularly reviewing and assessing scientific evidence to ensure its materials are evidence-based. LiveLighter conducts surveys measuring the effect of the campaign on a regular basis. Between 2012 and 2020 over 11,500 people have participated. For more information, see our research and evaluation library.

The LiveLighter ads have also been tested for effectiveness against other ads addressing obesity and have rated strongly against those other materials. This study can be found here.

Are the images harmful?

The LiveLighter public education campaign aims to show the medical consequences of being above a healthy weight and motivate people to make changes to their eating and exercise behaviours. The advertisements focus on the risks associated with carrying excess fat, particularly visceral fat stored deep inside our bodies around our organs. We certainly don’t want to make people feel bad about their size or shape.  

Occasionally, concerns are raised regarding unintended consequences of the LiveLighter advertisements. The potential impact of our campaign on reinforcing negative societal attitudes towards people living in larger bodies is something that LiveLighter have considered since the start of the campaign. Surveys conducted after each campaign wave have not found any increase in negative stereotypes held about people carrying excess weight. The results from the first round of interviews can be found here.