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Ga. childhood obesity PSAs spark controversy

(CBS) Childhood obesity public service announcements airing in Georgia have some critics crying foul that the dark-themed ads featuring grim overweight kids could backfire.

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"We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: 'Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,' " Linda Matzigkeit, a senior vice president at Children's Healthcare, a co-sponsor of the ads, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The commercials, made by an organization called Strong4Life, show overweight kids describing how other kids pick on them or how their health has been impacted because they are overweight. There are five ads featuring five different children, which end with taglines like "being fat takes the fun out of being a kid," or "some diseases aren't just for adults anymore."

The ads are part of a $50 million campaign in Georgia  where nearly one million kids are obese and 75 percent of parents of an obese child don't recognize it as a problem, Strong4Life says. It's the second worse obesity rate in the country behind Mississippi.

"Ignoring this problem is what got us here," Strong4Life says on its website. "It's time to wake up."

Some critics think the ads may backfire because they only shock, but don't offer helpful solutions.

"We know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior," Karen Hilyard, a health communication researcher at the University of Georgia told  the Journal-Constitution. 

Dr. Marsha Davis, a child obesity prevention researcher at the University of Georgia's College of Public Health, added to the paper. "In terms of the social stigma about weight - it might actually make people feel worse about that."

The paper reports a new phase of the campaign is coming soon that may also offend some Georgians.

Back in May, billboards and online videos from the campaign circulated which also drew criticism, CBS Newsreported.

"Billboards depicting fat kids are extraordinarily harmful to the very kids they are supposedly trying to help," the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said at the time.

What do you think of the ads?

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