Zipatly Mendoza, Office Chief at the Arizona Health Disparities Center, Arizona Department of Health Services
In late 2008, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, announced a call-to-action to reduce birth defects. The goal: make people more aware of the need to take multivitamins containing folic acid to reduce the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs), especially among Latina women of childbearing age. The plan: create and implement a campaign in Arizona that would resonate with target audiences.
That campaign, led by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) in partnership with the March of Dimes, required a well-coordinated, thoroughly researched approach. Zipatly Mendoza, Office Chief at the Arizona Health Disparities Center, ADHS, and Claudia Sloan, Special Projects Administrator at the Division of Behavioral Health Services, called on their collective experiences to develop and implement the campaign. Zipatly had interned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (CDC, NCBDDD) in 2003. Zipatly also had completed her master’s thesis on birth defects and Latinas in the United States. Her experiences were important because the campaign focused on NTD prevention among Latinas. “When I was given this task, I knew that I could turn to CDC and NCBDDD” said Zipatly.
Early in 2008, groups within the ADHS worked to create the “Take Multivitamins” campaign. The group decided to focus on one main goal—increasing awareness about the need to take folic acid daily, while also having a secondary goal—increasing daily folic acid use among young Latinas.
When planning the campaign, the group used prior focus group research to enhance the “multivitamin” concept – that most multivitamins include the folic acid that one needs each day. Messages were created and tested. Focus groups with young Latinas revealed that vibrant colors and youthful pictures worked well with the women. The campaign’s tagline became “Take your multivitamin every day! It’s an expression of love for yourself.”
One unique way the campaign reached its target audiences was to collaborate with a local, youth pop-rock band. The band helped create the design of the logo, t-shirts, and other give-away items, and even some messages. The band was featured in English and Spanish radio and TV ads for the campaign.
Folic acid messages often were a part of a broader educational message that covered topics such as physical activity and good nutrition. This message increased interest among new partners, such as community health clinics, community colleges, youth centers, libraries, and the Healthy Start and Head Start programs, just to name a few. Another campaign angle was to raise awareness among partners about folic acid use, stressing the social, emotional, and financial burdens caused by NTDs. Partners were asked to help by giving out the brochures, posters, and other campaign materials (for instance, by teaming up at local health fairs and other free or low cost events). The materials were offered at no cost on the campaign’s website order form.
As Claudia Sloan stated, “It’s vital to include your target group in the planning process.” This campaign was implemented in Maricopa, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties, with messages airing across the central and southern parts of the state. In the designated areas, the target groups were known to have poor diets (based on data from the ADHS’s Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity).
The ADHS paid for ad time in January 2009, when National Birth Defects Prevention Month and National Folic Acid Awareness Week are observed. Partners ran ads throughout the year including during April, which is Minority Health Month. The ADHS partnered with the CDC and NCBDDD to adapt several posters and brochures for Latinas, entitled “Niños Del Futuro” (Children of the Future), “Antes De Que Te Des Cuenta Que Estas Embarazada” (Before You Know You’re Pregnant), and “Madres Extraordinarias” (Extraordinary Mothers). The ADHS also created one entitled “Take Your Multivitamin”, using an image of the youth band’s female singer.
Changes in awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors will be assessed by comparing post-campaign survey results with baseline survey results. When these assessments are complete, the ADHS will share the results with partners and publish an article showcasing its efforts.
“We now have lots of partners both inside and outside of ADHS,” says Zipatly Mendoza. “Many campaign pieces were handed out by our partners. We are very grateful that others have joined with us to spread the folic acid message.”