Category Archives: Health education
“We know PSA campaigns can make a big impact; that they can improve people’s lives.”
The Advertising (Ad) Council has just launched a new version of its digital distribution platform, PSA Central, which is geared toward PSA directors and media outlets, but is also valuable for anyone who wants to share the messages including educators and public health practitioners. The site offers easy access to video, print, radio, online, mobile and outdoor media public service advertisements that range from bullying prevention to food safety education.
Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) may actually date back to the civil war when newspapers offered free advertising space to the U.S. government to advertise bonds whose revenues were used to pay for the war effort. These days, PSAs are much more likely to be public safety messages such as a United Kingdom video PSA, downloaded over 2 million times on YouTube, reminding people just why they should buckle up in a car. And more importantly, these efforts are being measured and tracked to show impact on health behavior change and health outcomes, such as the Ad Council’s drunk driving prevention campaign that has encouraged 70 percent of Americans to take action to stop a friend from driving drunk.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, about the public health messages PSAs can convey and how new media has expanded their reach.
NewPublicHealth: How have PSAs evolved over the years?
Peggy Conlon: PSAs have evolved quite a bit. The Ad Council is 71 years old and back in the earliest days PSAs were seen in newspapers and heard over the radio. Since then they have been showcased on just about all media platforms. In the 90s we were introduced to the Internet and everything changed forever. The Internet added another new dimension to our ability, in a very tangible and personal way, to engage communities around social issues.
NPH: What are some of the most effective and iconic campaigns in public service advertising?
Did you know that consumers are supposed to call a three-digit number, 811, before starting any digging on residential property? Many would-be diggers don’t, which is why the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) began an 811 public education campaign last month.
PHMSA has good reason for getting the word out. Striking buried lines is a leading cause of pipeline-related death and injury and can lead to service outages in whole neighborhoods. Over the last 20 years, property damage costs were over $500 million nationwide from such strikes.
PHMSA estimated that three out of ten households will begin residential construction or renovation projects this spring. A call to 811, which connects would-be diggers to a local utility’s call center, a few days before planned digging generates a visit from a local representative who will mark the approximate location of nearby underground lines, pipes and cables, so workers can dig safely.
“We want 811 to become as well-known as 911, because digging without getting your utilities marked is not only dangerous, it can also cut off services to an entire neighborhood and cost you money[in fines],” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.
Since 811 debuted six years ago, serious pipeline incidents from unsafe digging have decreased by more than 45 percent, according to PHMSA.
During American Heart Month in February 2013, the Heart Truth campaign of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) will share stories of women taking action to protect their heart.
Today is National Wear Red Day, an observance established in 2003 by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute [of the National Institutes of Health], to encourage women to take preventive actions against heart disease, the number one killer of women in the U.S. Why the focus on women? Until then, and still today, the myth persists than heart disease is a problem strictly for older men.
Successes since the first National Wear Red Day include:
- 21% fewer women dying from heart disease
- 23% more women aware that it's their No. 1 health threat
- Education on gender-specific differences in symptoms and responses to medications and guidelines for prevention and treatment
- Legislation to help end gender disparities
This week in May kicks off the start of Asthma Awareness Month.
According to the National Institutes of Health, asthma impacts 230 million people around the world, and 25 million in the US alone. Studies released today to mark asthma awareness observances include a report that finds that secondhand smoke remains a critical health risk for many children, and that seniors are often under-treated for asthma, putting their health and lives at risk.
There is no way to prevent, or to cure, asthma. Existing treatments focus on preventing or controlling disease symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. And each year more than half of children and one-third of adults with asthma in the U.S. miss school or work because of the disease. About 17 million people require medical attention because of an asthma episode and more than 3,000 people die of asthma.
There has been progress:
- In March 2012, NIH and other agencies published a report, Asthma Outcomes in Clinical Research, that for the first time pushes for standardization across asthma clinical studies. The report establishes common measures and data-collection methods that will let researchers compare their results more efficiently and could lead to improvements in care.
- In August 2011, NIH held a workshop to identify specific factors that may predict a person’s risk of developing asthma during the first 1,000 days of life, including environmental exposures, genetics and events that occur in pregnancy and early infancy. NIH researchers say understanding the early risk factors for asthma may provide an opportunity to prevent asthma before it begins.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has released a mobile app for iPhones and the Android platform which gives location-specific reports on current air quality and air quality forecasts for both ozone and fine particle pollution to help people with asthma plan their day.
- The American Lung Association has just launched Lungtropolis, an interactive web-based learning game funded by NIH, to help children ages 5-10 control their asthma. Kids become “Asthma Control Agents “as they fight to defeat the “MucusMob.” A recent study found that kids who played the game were better able to manage their asthma than a control group of kids who hadn't tried Lungtropolis.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a new website, Parents Central, that will, quite frankly, help save children’s lives. The site offers frequently updated safety information for kids in cars—from the newborn firstborn to the teen homecoming queen—as well as safety guidance for travel of all kinds including bicycling, walking and riding the bus to school.
Last month’s Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a critical evidence base for parents, and health care professionals, to book mark and follow Parents Central. The April report showed that child injury death rates dropped nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2009, with a significant part of that decline coming from a 41 percent drop in motor vehicle crash deaths in children over the past decade. Safety measures that have reduced deaths in car crashes include use of child safety seats and booster seats, and more widespread adoption and the strengthening of graduated driver's licensing systems for teenagers.
While you’re on the Parents Central site, NHTSA resources well worth the look include guidance on choosing and installing car seats, the agency’s new campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in cars, and tips for staying safe when transporting kids in multi-passenger vans—especially as summer camps and trips start up.
Bonus Reading: Read about Operation Hang Up, an initiative in New York State this past weekend that had police officers aggressively ticketing drivers on their cell phones.