HEALTH

HHS partners with Ad Council, Sesame Workshop to develop PSAs on H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced that HHS is joining the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” to launch a national public-service advertising campaign designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

“Since the outbreak of the H1N1 flu, many Americans have expressed concern about how they can protect themselves from being infected,” stated Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services for this critical campaign that will educate parents and children about how to stay healthy. We are also grateful to Sesame Workshop for providing their resources and talent for the PSAs.”

As part of HHS and the Ad Council’s campaign, Sesame Workshop produced a television PSA featuring “Sesame Street’s” Elmo and Gordon explaining the importance of such healthy habits as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and sneezing into the bend of your arm.

The campaign was unveiled Friday morning by Sebelius at the HHS/Department of Education Childcare Center in Washington, D.C. The PSAs will be distributed nationwide and will be supported in airtime donated by television stations.

The new PSA campaign focuses on the importance of providing parents, teachers and children with accurate information about how to practice healthy habits, highlighting proper hand-washing and simple everyday actions that lead to staying healthy and keeping germs away. Created by Sesame Workshop, the television PSAs encourage audiences to visit www.cdc.gov to get more information on how to stay healthy. The PSAs are an extension of Sesame’s Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which helps young children and their caregivers establish an early foundation of healthy habits.

The Ad Council will be distributing the PSAs via satellite to television stations nationwide.

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Study finds link between vitamin D deficiency, bacterial vaginosis

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. There may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection that is common among pregnant women and can lead to complications.

According to data to be published in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, researchers tracking 469 pregnant women found that 41% of those women had BV, and that the prevalence of BV decreased as vitamin D concentration increased.

Researchers concluded that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with BV in the first four months of pregnancy. Further, poor vitamin D status may contribute to the strong racial disparity in the prevalence of BV in U.S. women. Controlled intervention trials will be needed to confirm this hypothesis, the researchers suggested.

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IRI study: Consumers not worried about catching H1N1 virus

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Almost half of Americans (45%) are not concerned about getting a contagious disease like the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, according to a new consumer survey conducted by Information Resources Inc.

However, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t looking to actively protect themselves from catching the flu — 54% reported that they would wash their hands more frequently, 24% suggested they would venture out into the public less often and 20% said they would buy more alcohol-based or antibacterial hand cleaners in an effort to prevent infection.

“This epidemic announcement has caught the shoppers’ attention,” Thomas Blischok, president of consulting and innovation, IRI, told Drug Store News. “And their immediate [reaction] was to buy more hand sanitizers [and] any sort of ‘safety’-related products.”

Sales in those hand sanitizers and related products — like N95 masks, for example — spiked in the immediate aftermath of the H1N1 announcement but have dropped since. That could change this fall if the story of an H1N1 return to the U.S. dominates news broadcasts, as is likely, Blischok suggested, and retailers need to be prepared. For the retailer developing a strategy around this now, Blischok said, “it might be good to begin analyzing their data and understand exactly about people who were concerned about [H1N1] changed their purchase behaviors.”

Many of those products — hand sanitizers, facemasks, thermometers, even prescription antiviral medications — were reported out-of-stock when news of H1N1 first broke, Blischok noted. Now, retailers have a few months to prepare for an expected resurgence in demand around those products.

“I can even see the development of a ‘flu avoidance’ endcap,” Blischok said. “Information [and communication] will be key; understanding what people will buy will be key; [and] being very clear that you have the right assortment to support flu prevention will be key.”

Another important issue, especially for pharmacy operators, is the dissemination of information, Blischok said. Once alerted to the potential of a pandemic, Blischok said, consumers turned to their healthcare resources, such as the pharmacist, for more information.

“The clinics inside the drug stores have a great opportunity to really over-communicate things you can do to prevent flu, to avoid flu,” Blischok added. “The stores that have clinics can really win here, because they can do some diagnostics, etc., and really help people understand exactly the kinds of behaviors they should be undertaking to give themselves the greatest chance of not getting the flu.”

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