Anti-Obesity Ad Campaign Stirs Controversy

New ads in Georgia addressing the very serious issue of childhood obesity are drawing criticisms that the sensational pictures of the ads will not curb obesity among children only add to the stigma.

The black and white videos feature young teens and adults talking about the medical problems or teasing at school that they face due to their weight.

They are straightforward and harsh, using words like "obese" and "chubby."

"It has to be harsh. If it's not, nobody's going to listen," Linda Matzigkeit, vice president of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the pediatric hospital running the campaign, told National Public Radio.

Matzigkeit feels the campaign is needed because parents are not helping prevent or even address the issue. She states that Georgia has the second highest number of obese children in the country behind Mississippi.

The ads are part of a five year, $25 million anti-obesity campaign which includes health awareness programs in schools, training pediatricians to educate parents and teens and establishing health clinics to address specific obesity-related issues.

Nearly one million children are obese or overweight in the state. Since the late 1970s, obesity across the country has risen sharply for children and young adults from ages 2 to 19, according to the National Institute of Health.

"This is a medical crisis, and I say if you don't believe me, come visit our hospital and see the kids we are now taking care of, that more and more have Type 2 diabetes, have hypertension, need knee replacements, and it's breaking our heart to see these adult-type diseases in the children that we serve," Matzigkeit continued.

While the ads are dramatic many health officials and parents have criticized the campaign for using an inappropriate and negative strategy to get a much needed message across.

According to Rodney Lyn of Georgia State University's Institute of Public Health, "This campaign is more negative than positive."

Based on his research, Lyn says, the ads can hurt the very people they are trying to help. "We know that stigmatization leads to lower self-esteem, potential depression. We know that kids will engage in physical activity less because they feel like they're going to be embarrassed. So there are all these other negative effects." he said.