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Icons That Help Move People to New Behaviors

2010 May 21

Environmental progress is based on people. People willing to do the right thing, to make a different choice, to try a new behavior. And that kind of sea change takes something more than regulations. It takes a shift that comes not just from the head but from the heart of millions of individuals, desiring a better life and a healthier environment.

Helping us make that leap into people’s hearts is The Ad Council, a non-profit organization that serves as the charitable arm for the advertising and media industry. The Ad Council recruits the best talent in the communications industry, who volunteer their expertise, to shine a spotlight on social issues in need of mass public action to make a measurable, positive change in society. Over its 60 year history, the Ad Council has created some of America’s best known public icons, including Smokey Bear and the Crying Indian.

As EPA celebrates its 40th Anniversary, it’s fitting that we join forces with the Ad Council to tackle another pressing social issue: Childhood Asthma. Since 2001, EPA has partnered with the Ad Council to highlight the growing problem of childhood asthma. Our goals are to reduce the severity and number of asthma attacks to reduce emergency room visits and improve school attendance.

In its first iteration, the national childhood asthma media campaign adopted a goldfish metaphor to explain that no child with asthma should feel like a fish out of water. The media has generously embraced this campaign donating more than $300 million spanning TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and web in English, Spanish and in three Native American languages. The iconic goldfish leaves a powerful impression that stays with audiences—reporting an awareness of 33%–compared to the Ad Council norm of about 15%. This high awareness helps to shift behaviors as well—by prompting parents to go to the web or call a hotline to learn more. Tracking success, since the start of the campaign, some 20% of parents report trying a new behavior to help prevent their child’s asthma attacks.

Joining us this year, for a new round of public service television commercials, is one of America’s most prolific and renowned film directors, Joe Pytka. Think two eggs sizzling in a frying pan; think Superbowl, the iconic Clydesdales; and Michael Jordan in Space Jam. Known for his ability to fill the screen with emotional tugs, he reminds parents and caregivers– for a child with asthma, monsters can be lurking anywhere, even in innocent places inside their home. Take a look at this new media campaign.

About the Author: Kristy Miller leads the national asthma media campaign for EPA’s Air Office.

Another link to view the media campaign

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    May 21, 2010

    Hi, I have Asthma, since age 12. I agree that knowledge and an action plan are very important in preventing asthma atttacks. Your right about the environment and emotional stresses affecting ones asthma. The behavior therapy kinda sounds like just being mindful of your actions, cognitive therapy? Are you saying then that preventative medication is not needed? Or, is behavior change an added resource for the asthma sufferer? I’ll have to read more abut your research. thank you

  2. Urooj permalink
    May 21, 2010

    HI! it’s good to read about this asthima protection campaign!
    but will you be kind enough to guide common people about, “how we can protect ourselves from heading towards asthima or related problems?” in your further articals

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 22, 2010

    EPA and AdC teaming up for the asthma campaign is a great benefit for public health in general and children in particular. What is in the environment can play a critical role in asthma attacks. Pollan is the traditional cause. But dust can include particles from tires and fuel exhaust from roadways, residue from chemical spraying, residue from landfills, and other sources. Pollution is a triggering cause for Asthma and one of the most unhealthful components of air pollution today is diesel particulates. Best wishes,Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Kristy Miller permalink
    May 25, 2010

    Hello Lori,

    Thank you for your post. Certainly, every one suffering with asthma should see their doctor and work with medical professionals to develop a personal asthma management plan–this includes taking medications as prescribed and determining what triggers your asthma attacks. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/actionplan_text.htm

    Asthma triggers vary from person to person, so knowing your personal triggers is an important part of controlling your asthma. You can learn more about managing some common environmental triggers at http://www.epa.gov/asthma/about.html

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a very helpful asthma website http://www.cdc.gov/asthma

    Thank you for your interest and all the best, Kristy miller

  5. Kristy Miller permalink
    May 25, 2010

    Hi, Urooj: While experts don’t know how to prevent the disease of asthma, experts do know what it takes to control asthma. Please work with your doctor to get an asthma action plan; be sure to take the medications your doctor prescribes; and take steps to avoid the triggers that make your asthma worse. You can learn more about ways to avoid common triggers at EPA’s asthma website http://www.epa.gov/asthma/about.html

    Also, check out The Centers for Disease Control’s asthma website for more asthma information and tips.
    http://www.epa.gov/asthma/about.html

    Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comment.

    Kristy Miller

  6. Kristy Miller permalink
    May 25, 2010

    Hi, Michael,

    Good to get your comment. It’s true that the environment plays a role in triggering asthma attacks– both the outdoor and indoor environments are important. Did you know, most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors? This means it’s vital for people to be aware of what’s in their home’s environment, how they may be contributing to asthma triggers and ways to better maintain their indoor environment as well. You can learn more about environmental asthma triggers–both indoors and outdoors– at our website

    http://www.epa.gov/asthma/about.html

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Kristy

  7. Kristy Miller permalink
    May 25, 2010

    Hi, Michael,

    Good to get your comment. It’s true that the environment plays a role in triggering asthma attacks– both the outdoor and indoor environments are important. Did you know, most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors? This means it’s vital for people to be aware of what’s in their home’s environment, how they may be contributing to asthma triggers and ways to better maintain their indoor environment as well. You can learn more about environmental asthma triggers–both indoors and outdoors– at our website

    http://www.epa.gov/asthma/about.html

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Kristy

  8. Anonymous permalink
    November 4, 2010

    Please stop running the goldfish/asthma commercial!!!!!

    It is on every channel and comes on at least 50 to 60 times a day. It is plain and simply gross overkill. I cannot understand why any organization would continue to pound people endlessly every day, day after day with the same old tired message. You are really turning the public against the very thing you are trying to build support for.

    Enough already!!!!!!!!!!!!

    P. S. The same goes for that cheesy cinderella carriage commercial about the booster seat!!!!!!!

  9. Michael Maynard permalink
    April 25, 2011

    Thank you Kristy Miller for this informative article on the promotion of childhood asthma awareness.

    I hadn’t watched the goldfish commercial as I live in the UK, but just watched it on Youtube, and it certainly puts the point across!

    Michael

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