The Covering Kids Commmunications Campaign

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has integrated its communications work with its program activities to a degree unusual in philanthropy. In this chapter, Susan B. Garland, who was an award-winning correspondent for Business Week and is now a freelance writer, examines a major Foundation-funded communications campaign that supported its Covering Kids ® program.

In 1997, Congress passed the State Children's Health Initiative Program, or SCHIP, and allocated to the states a total of $48 billion over 10 years to expand health insurance coverage for children in poor and near-poor families. To help ensure that the programs would be implemented effectively in all 50 states, the Foundation made one of its largest sets of investment ever. Through the Covering Kids program, a total of $47 million was allocated initially to coalitions in all 50 states to help them enroll children in the SCHIP and Medicaid programs. In 2000, the Foundation authorized an additional $26 million for an ambitious communications campaign to publicize the availability of health insurance for children.

In this chapter, Garland analyzes the strategy and the approaches used in the communications campaign. The goal of the campaign was to get potentially eligible families to call a phone number for information about how to enroll in their state's children's health insurance program. To do this, the Foundation obtained the services of a major advertising agency and a prestigious market research firm. Working with the national program office for the Covering Kids program, they developed a series of ad campaigns that ran in selected markets throughout the country.