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Selectmen Approve Funding Tickborne Disease Awareness, Prevention Campaign

The Board of Selectmen approved $15,000 during a meeting March 17 that will underwrite a tickborne disease awareness and prevention campaign that will be launched in the coming weeks by the Newtown Health District.

Health District Director Donna Culbert has worked for years within her department’s budget to continue tick awareness and tickborne disease prevention campaigns, and has often been seen at local health fairs and stationed outside the middle school during budget referendums circulating materials and chatting up residents about the dangers of being bit by the tiny, pesky insects.

A Lyme disease sufferer herself, Ms Culbert has also successfully brought a Yale University-based scientific trial to Newtown that provided no-cost spraying and follow-up surveys for local homeowners interested in ridding their yards of potentially dangerous ticks.

But based on the continually increasing incidents of tickborne disease being reported in town, and the proportion of Lyme or otherwise infected ticks, she recently lobbied elected officials to help step-up an awareness campaign that she believes will inform and reinforce prevention messaging townwide.

After brief discussion between First Selectman Pat Llodra and Selectman James Gaston, they moved and approved the funding, which is being drawn from an undesignated town Sandy Hook Special Revenue Fund intended to support public health, safety, or resiliency initiatives.

Ms Culbert said she is excited to be partnering with More Advertising, a minority- and women-owned Massachusetts-based cause marketing firm with experience successfully mounting public health and safety programs similar to what Newtown hopes to launch this year.

Since 2002, the company has helped build and strengthen connections between the Boston Red Sox and local families as the organization’s community relations agency of record, also handling special projects for The Red Sox Foundation.

More also handled graphic design, photography, and print production for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center For Addiction Medicine, targeting youth, parents, educators, and other medical professionals with information about young people facing addiction issues.

In 1999, More Advertising helped launch “Life After Cigarettes,” a three-year tobacco cessation campaign that targeted minority women and girls — the first of its kind in the nation. Five years later, More created another cessation campaign, “What’s Your Story?”

Working closely with the CDC and its Screen For Life campaign, More Advertising adapted CDC radio spots to target the most vulnerable local populations for colon cancer deaths — African American and Latino males.

According to company literature, More’s understanding of city neighborhoods and commitment to positive behavior change led to a partnership with StreetSafe leadership to brand StreetSafe Boston, whose mission is to dramatically reduce gun violence by working directly with young people in the poorest, most violence-afflicted Boston neighborhoods.

The company also established an AIDS/HIV outreach program to encourage individuals to get tested and how those individuals should communicate their condition to loved ones, as well as developing marketing campaigns for Boston’s Wang Center for Performing Arts.

Most importantly for Ms Culbert, More worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health creating a strategic outreach and education campaign on avoiding and preventing tickborne disease, “Mosquitoes and Ticks: They’re Out In Mass!”

They also designed a related community survey to gauge effectiveness for that campaign, an online series of related videos, along with a social, web, and paid media campaign, and a wallet-sized information card tnat won an award from the National Public Health Information Coalition.

The goal of the campaign, based on preliminary collaboration between the company and Ms Culbert, aims to change the behavior of Newtown residents around tickborne disease prevention, by first determining target audiences who will be most receptive to a prevention and awareness campaign.

Then the company will work with the Health District and other key partners developing a multimedia approach to help influence a three-year behavior change marketing plan for the town.

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