BabyCal: Caring for California Babies
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

BabyCal: Caring for California Babies

The BabyCal campaign is a statewide public awareness and education campaign aimed at combating low birthweight and decreasing infant mortality.

Paul Holmes

The BabyCal campaign is a statewide public awareness and education campaign aimed at combating low birthweight and decreasing infant mortality.  BabyCal focuses on educating younger, low-income pregnant women of various ethnicities and their families about the importance of prenatal care, practicing healthy behaviors during pregnancy and the availability of state programs that can help pay for prenatal care services.  The campaign, launched in 1991, is administered by the California Department of Health Services.  Hill and Knowlton (H&K) is the campaign’s agency of record.
  • Reach audiences most likely to not seek prenatal care
  • Overcome the target audiences’ distrust of government programs
  • Distribute campaign messages to California’s large, diverse population
  • Contribute to reducing the number of infant deaths and increase the number of healthy births
  • Promote the BabyCal toll-free line (800-BABY-999)
By evaluating the state’s vital statistics, H&K identified the geographic and socioeconomic profiles of the populations with the highest infant mortality rates.  In addition to reaching a statewide audience, H&K determined that “hot spot” areas, such as Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno, should be emphasized targets.  Younger, low-income women of various minorities, particularly African American, Hispanic and Asian, who are most likely to not seek prenatal care—a crucial factor linked with healthy pregnancies and birth—were also identified as important statewide targets.
H&K designed an integrated outreach program based on research results and identified objectives to build on the campaign’s past statewide outreach efforts with added “strikes” to key areas and communities.  Proven program tools, such as BabyCal Bundles and BabyCal News, would be continued, while new activities and events would direct special attention to the greatest areas of need.
To reduce the infant death mortality rate, the campaign needed to educate women about the importance of early and ongoing prenatal care and encourage healthy behaviors during pregnancy.  This would be accomplished via outreach activities that continuously stated these messages, created awareness of helpful state programs and encouraged the target audience to seek more information via the campaign’s toll-free line.  Obstacles, such as the difficulties associated with reaching California’s large, diverse population, would be overcome via the mobilization of the campaign’s vast 550-member CBO network, those organizations working in the community every day who best understand the needs and concerns of the target audience.  Understanding the target audiences’ inherent distrust of government programs, H&K developed a campaign to utilize in-language, culturally relevant collateral materials and a celebrity spokesperson with community-specific credibility to deliver messages.  To ensure that “our messengers,” the CBOs, would have information they needed, when they needed it, H&K developed a Web site, which CBOs could access 24-hours-a-day and which could be updated frequently and efficiently.
H&K created an outreach campaign using community-based outreach, collateral development, sponsorship, spokespersons and media relations.  All projects were developed to meet the campaign’s objectives and planned with help and feedback from the campaign’s three CBO coordinators and network of 550 CBOs.
Community-Based Outreach
Given the state’s challenges of geography and diversity, H&K determined that the best way to reach the target audience was via members of its own community.  To this end, H&K focused on maintaining and growing the network of BabyCal CBOs that serve as the campaign’s voice in the community, and focused on managing the efforts of three regional coordinators who were the liaisons between the CBOs and H&K.  To support CBO efforts “out in the field,” H&K employed the following:
  • Maintained constant contact via phone with every member of the BabyCal CBO network.
  • Conducted site visits with CBO network members who needed more attention to ensure they had the support and information to effectively deliver the BabyCal messages.  Site visits were also made to prospective CBOs that could be added to the network roster.
  • Participated in nine health fairs/conferences throughout the state, enabling the campaign to reach thousands of CBOs and members of the campaign’s target audience, and provided them with collateral marketing materials.
  • Hosted two CBO networking events, providing an opportunity for CBOs to get together, receive campaign updates and be given recognition for their contributions to the program.
  • Created a 60-minute educational video, titled BabyCal Celebrates Ten Years of Caring for California’s Babies
  • A Healthy Baby Starts With Prenatal Care, for CBOs to use in their outreach efforts.
  • Produced three issues of BabyCal News, the campaign’s quarterly newsletter, to distribute updates to the network.  As part of BabyCal’s10th birthday celebration activities, one issue was redesigned as a 12-page, three-color commemorative issue.
10th Birthday
On May 9, 2001, BabyCal celebrated its 10th birthday at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.  H&K secured attendance from state officials who are crucial to the continued state funding of the campaign, local CBOs and members of the target audience, as well as campaign spokesperson Holly Robinson Peete.
Web Site
At the 10th birthday celebration, CBOs were introduced to BabyCal’s new Web site——developed with input from the CBO network.  The site provides up-to-date campaign information and access to a variety of education and outreach resources that can be downloaded or printed at any time.
To promote the site, BabyCal distributed an eye-catching postcard to its CBO network.  In addition, the media was introduced to the site via an attractive Rolodex card that clearly identified the Web site as the source for prenatal care information in California.
To ensure CBOs received the tools necessary to effectively educate the target audience about the importance of prenatal care, available state assistance programs and the toll-free line, H&K:
  • Designed and launched two new items (mini-poster and pocket calendar), featuring campaign spokesperson, celebrity mom and actress, Holly Robinson Peete.
  • Redesigned and unveiled a new line of outreach and education materials, the most comprehensive line of materials BabyCal has ever developed. The materials are full-color and targeted at specific languages (English, Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, Laotian and Vietnamese) and/or cultures (African American, Native American, Caucasian, Hispanic and multi-cultural).
Media Activities
Throughout the year, BabyCal leveraged media activities to energize its CBO network, broaden its visibility throughout California and reach the state’s hard-to-reach populations.  The following media activities were implemented with great success:
  • Partnered with UPN Los Angeles/KCOP 13 to produce Baby Love—Prenatal Care for You and Your Baby, a 30-minute television special, focusing on prenatal care education, narrated by Mo’Nique, star of the popular UPN sitcom, The Parkers.
  • Partnered with Univision Fresno affiliate KFTV/Channel 21, the number-one rated television station in the Central Valley, to produce one 30-second public service announcement, three prenatal care news segments and four news stories featuring BabyCal CBO partners and their clients.
  • Produced two television and one radio PSA featuring actress Holly Robinson Peete, star of the television series For Your Love and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.
Bundles Program
H&K found that offering a reward to the target audience for healthy behaviors was a great motivator for behavioral change.  In May 2001, H&K rolled out the fourth year of the Bundles program, an incentive program that provides expectant moms with a gift after they have completed a set number of prenatal appointments and classes.  Moms that complete the program receive a Bundle, consisting of a BabyCal tote bag filled with English and Spanish-language educational materials and baby-care related items, such as bibs and coupons. 
The BabyCal campaign has made a significant impact on increasing healthy birth outcomes and lowering the state’s infant death rate.  As a result of the campaign’s efforts, California’s infant death rate has decreased by more than 31 percent.  In March 2001, California health officials announced the lowest infant death rate ever recorded in the state -- 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999.  In addition:
  • 44,400 calls, more than 3,700 per month, were handled by BabyCal’s toll-free line.
  • BabyCal’s CBO network grew to 550, the highest number in campaign history.
  • Nearly 62,000 individual pieces of BabyCal collateral materials were distributed to the target audience.
  • More than 40 percent of stations that received the Holly Robinson Peete television PSAs (31 of 77 stations) aired the spots, including the largest African American audience cable network, Black Entertainment Television (BET).
  • The BabyLove television special with UPN Los Angeles/KCOP 13 reached an estimated 500,000 television households and was recognized by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which awarded BabyLove a 2000 Emmy Award for Excellence in Education.
  • Two thousand English and Spanish-speaking women participated in the Bundles program via 62 CBOs.
  • Nearly two million Spanish-speaking households in the Central Valley received BabyCal campaign messages through the KFTV 21/Univision media partnership.
  • BabyCal’s 10th birthday celebration received extensive media coverage, including a six-minute pre-event interview with Holly Robinson Peete on Sacramento’s top morning television news show, “Good Day Sacramento,” reaching more than 150,000 viewers; a two-page spread in the Sacramento Observer; and coverage on six Sacramento-area television stations.
  • The 10th birthday celebration was held in Sacramento in part to reach the elected officials who need to know that programs like BabyCal are working.  Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, Grantland Johnson, and State Health Director Diana Bontá were among those in attendance.
View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus