A communication strategy aimed to educate the populous on how to avoid spreading H1N1 influenza cost taxpayers over $500,000. The means: radio and television advertisements created by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) featuring Gov. Bev Perdue. The message: remember to cough into your sleeves.
The ads, which have are airing on more than 4,000 radio spots and hundreds of television segments, was funded by Public Health Emergency Response (PHER) grants, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The grants – taxpayers’ money – are specifically designed for state health departments to use to educate people on taking action against H1N1 flu.
It costs $2,000 to make each of the advertisements. While the state health department has already received $275,000 from PHER and spent it, the health department is set to receive an additional $455,000 in PHER grant’s for another public service campaign. HHS has already committed $45,000 of the grant for radio ads featuring Gov. Perdue with the Sesame Street character Elmo.
The PHER grants do not require a state or local funds match. The money is transferred from the federal program to state governments in order to help them reach their populations best.
PHER grants exist for the purpose to support and enhance state and local health infrastructure, which includes paying for manpower to distribute vaccine shots and conduct laboratory work. According to PHER grant guidelines, they can also be used to implement far-reaching communication strategies, especially people who are considered to be in flu vaccine priority groups.
These groups, according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices include: pregnant women, healthcare workers, infant caregivers, individuals from six months to 24 years of age, and other individuals with high-risk health conditions. None of these groups are referenced in the commercial.
In fact, Perdue neglects to say anything about H1N1 flu in the advertisement, which was paid for with grant funds. For all intents and purposes, the thirty second spots, while trying to be helpful, don’t mention H1N1 once. And the advertisements don’t fit required guidelines provided in the PHER grants.
The commercials view more like a public relation campaign for the Governor. Perdue, who had a 37 percent approval rating, according to the Civitas Institute October Poll, does not seem to be the “stand-out” spokesperson for the commercials. A more appropriate spokesperson would seem to be the state Health Director, a health care worker or perhaps a known TV personality such as Andy Griffith.
But forget all that, Perdue is the expert. Rather than coughing into your hands and spreading germs by touching everything you come into contact with, you should cough into your sleeve instead. This method will keep your saliva to yourself – a trick most of us learned in kindergarten or from our multi-tasking mothers who didn’t have time for consistent hand washing. Maybe in the next commercial, our Governor will remind us to sneeze into a tissue.