It’s not often that the major health advocacy organizations join forces for a cause, so when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Diabetes Association (ADA), and the American Medical Association (AMA) enlisted the help of Ad Council to target the estimated 86 million people in the United States with prediabetes for a public service announcement, it speaks to the urgency with which we as a public should be treating the issue of prediabetes. Its message is clear: No one is excused from prediabetes.
From what we have seen of the campaign so far, it’s definitely attention-grabbing and a little irreverent. The campaign website Do I Have Prediabetes? and accompanying ads with their striking aqua and bright yellow and all-caps block letters are accompanied by a quick risk assessment that takes under a minute to complete. The video spots feature a doctor facetiously excusing his patients from prediabetes because they are “too busy” for lifestyle changes or because they really love bacon, for instance.
Given that 1 in 3 people in the US suffer from prediabetes, but only about 10% of people with prediabetes are aware they have it, the opportunity for a campaign like this is significant. Programs like the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP), which is listed as a resource on the website, can help people with prediabetes halt or stall the progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes, but you can’t take action if you don’t know.
“We created the real-time test, which is the first of its kind and addresses people’s naivety of prediabetes, allowing prediabetes tests to be conducted in a 60-second TV commercial,” explains Corinna Falusi, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising New York. “Instead of educating the viewer in that 60-second spot, we are pushing them to take action in the moment and get results from that action.”
We had the opportunity to speak with the President-Elect of the American Medical Association, Dr. Andrew W. Gurman, M.D., about the campaign and ask him our questions.
Can you tell us about the target audience for the campaign and the reasons why prediabetes is the primary focus?
The target audience is pretty much anyone over the age of 40. We know the statistics. 86 million people in the U.S. have prediabetes, but 90% of them don’t know they have it. 30% of these individuals will transition to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is potentially preventable. Not progressing to type 2 diabetes is far better than being a well-controlled person with type 2.
For people who learn that they’re at risk, which will be many people if the campaign is effective, the site urges them to speak to their doctors. Are there other actions that the campaign website endorses?
If people understand their risk and how incorporating changes – not even profound changes, changes like taking a walk regularly – could affect their risk, they are twice as likely to adopt these changes.
As the old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” People don’t have to incorporate these things all at once. They can start with ten minutes of activity, work up to thirty minutes daily.
People in the diabetes community are talking about these video ad spots, remarking on, as blogger Scott Johnson called it, their “sass” and featuring characters like a busy mom and a guy who doesn’t like to exercise and doesn’t want to give up eating his bacon. Can you tell us about the decision to use humor for the media spots rather than a more traditional – and some of us would describe as “scare tactic” – route?
The videos that accompany the campaign were developed for us pro bono by the marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather, in both English and Spanish, and are meant to grab people’s attention.
Humor can drive home a point as effectively as any other means. These are the same suggestions that doctors have been giving to patients for years, but this time, the packaging is different.
What were some of the challenges to coordinating these efforts between such large organizations – the American Medical Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the Centers for Disease Control?
The American Medical Association is dedicated to promoting the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. The surprise for us was how easy collaboration was. These are the three big players in public health and in diabetes specifically.
Thank you so much, Dr. Gurman. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Well, I do have a great recipe for low carb cheesecake.
Oh, you’ve got to share it with us.
It’s definitely not low calorie, but it is low carb. You take your favorite New York style cheesecake recipe and replace the crust with crushed macadamia nuts and replace the sugar with Splenda.
It’s like you know us. Thanks!
We certainly hope the campaign will reach its intended audience and help people become aware that they might be at risk. Additionally, we hope that successes in coordinating the campaign between these large organizations pave the way for future collaborative campaigns toward the goal of improved public health.