Follow-up: $800,000 ad campaign designed to help us choose healthy

Aug 1, 2011

Why spend $800,000 to advertise what seems like common knowledge?  That smoking is bad for you, that eating nutritious foods is better than a diet of fast-food and physical activity is a good idea?

Because too many of us have trouble following those golden rules.

As spokesman James Apa, of Public Health Seattle & King County said in an email message defending the “Let’s Do This King County” campaign:

"More than a third of the deaths in King County – about 4,000 each year — are a result of smoking, unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. Persons in the most disadvantaged communities are three to four times more likely to be obese or smoke compared to the well-off neighborhoods."

Public health leaders have concluded that we struggle most when the healthier choices take more effort than the unhealthy ones. So, they've developed the mantra:

"Make the healthy choice, the easy choice."

Stimulus grant

Another reason they're spending such a large sum on advertising – which will include billboards plus television, radio, print and online spots – is because the federal government provided grant money to pay for it. The money came as part of the federal stimulus bill of 2009. (However, as reported earlier today, you will not be seeing the ads on Metro busses – because King County now forbids ads that promote public debate.)

The advertising is actually a small component of a grant called "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" (CPPW). The grant is paying for more than 50 community organizations to tackle obstacles to good health, ranging from ubiquitous vending machines full of junk food, to school lunch programs, to apartment buildings that allow smoking.

To make substantial improvements, Apa says policies need to change in many cities and school districts. He says the advertising campaign is meant to raise public awareness enough to bolster those people advocating for changing policies or rules.