Educating Women about the Need for Routine Gynecologic Care
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Holmes Report

Educating Women about the Need for Routine Gynecologic Care

When women suspect they have a vaginal infection, often their first instinct is to assume that their infection is a yeast infection and to treat it with over-the-counter creams. In order to educate women about the importance of seeing a doctor so that th

Paul Holmes

When women suspect they have a vaginal infection, often their first instinct is to assume that their infection is a yeast infection and to treat it with over-the-counter creams.  In order to educate women about the importance of seeing a doctor so that they can be properly diagnosed and prescribe the correct treatment, Cohn & Wolfe partnered with the American Social Health Association (ASHA) to develop a unique campaign focusing on the need for an accurate diagnosis by a physician.  The core of the campaign was a non-branded national survey to identify women’s knowledge of infections, and why they do not see a physician when they have one.  An extensive media campaign was conducted nationally and in local targeted markets that highlighted the need for women to visit their gynecologist to receive accurate diagnosis and effective treatments.


· Increase awareness of the problem of women not going to the doctor when they have a vaginal yeast infection, and the consequences of an inaccurate self-diagnosis.  
· Educate women about the differences between vaginal yeast infections and other types of infections
· Increase understanding by women of the benefit of a physician visit to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment


Initially, Cohn & Wolfe anticipated the news angle from the survey results of women’s health practices would be of particular interest to reporters if it uncovered a racial or cultural disparity among three of the major ethnic groups in the U.S.; African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians.  When we obtained the initial data cuts, we found little differences between the three groups about women’s attitudes to their health.   However, we discovered compelling statistics about women’s health that would pique reporter’s interest leading us to change our media angles, but allow communication of our original messages. 
In addition, the planned launch date for this outreach was September 12, 2001.  In light of the events of September 11, the launch was moved to October 10, 2001.  Nevertheless, the media environment continued to be extremely competitive as the ongoing war and Anthrax scare continued to be primary subjects of news coverage.  Specifically, we wanted national coverage and blanketed coverage in five key markets, including New York, which was solely focused on the war. 


Nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one “yeast infection” in their lifetime.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, misdiagnosis is common, and studies have shown that as many as two-thirds of all over-the-counter drugs sold to treat yeast infections were used by women without the disease. Using these drugs when they are not needed may lead to a resistant infection. Resistant infections are very difficult to treat with the currently available medications for yeast infections. Our survey served as our research tool to determine gynecologic habits of women both across the country, on a local level and among ethnicities.  Cohn & Wolfe used the survey to create a news angle about the problem of women self-diagnosing and the need to go to the doctor for an accurate diagnosis of vaginal infections.  We worked with the ASHA’s executive director to draft the survey, prepare her to be part of the media outreach and arm her with our key messages. In addition, we secured a speakersbureau to help ensure inclusion of key messages in the articles.  

Strategic Approach:

The strategic approach for this campaign was to utilize the survey to uncover the problem, and target specific ethnic groups and markets to bring the messages to women.  To garner media attention, Cohn & Wolfe highlighted the survey results that revealed that over 55% of women surveyed did not visit their gynecologist when they suspected they had a problem and that while many women (43%) self diagnosed and self treated themselves for yeast infections, 20% could not name one symptom of a yeast infection.

Campaign Execution:

We created an attractive news angle by publicizing the data that revealed women avoid visiting their gynecologists for similar reasons regardless of ethnic background.  To publicize this data, we developed a press release, fact sheet and camera ready graphic that underscored the results of the study.  In addition, we identified, recruited and media trained physicians including Spanish-speaking physicians for national outreach and in specific media markets.  To increase awareness in select markets such as Miami, Washington, DC and Los Angeles, we created localized media alerts for each key market to enhance news value. 

Finally, to ensure the delivery of key messages, we utilized controlled media vehicles including a national video news release, a radio news release and a community newspaper matte release.  Extensive media outreach was then conducted to national consumer and health media as well as to local media in the select markets, and reporters at publications targeted to African American and Hispanic audiences. 


Overall, our media outreach has resulted in stories that highlight key messages including the need for women to visit their doctor and the importance of seeing a doctor in lieu of self diagnosing a vaginal yeast infection.  In addition, the Cohn & Wolfe arranged for a number of interviews with spokesdoctors and ASHA, which resulted in more in depth stories.   The American Social Health Association (ASHA) posted information on the survey results on their website, which was included in the media coverage for more information. 

The Media Survey on Women Avoid Routine Gynecologic Care was prominently featured in major news outlets across the country and on the Internet, including:

· NBC News Channel (twice) and Fox New Edge
· Live television interviews with physicians on NBC in Philadelphia and on Univision
· 100 local television stories including top-tier markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa and Cleveland, most stories included portions of our VNR

· Placements in top-tier newspapers in local markets including New York Post and Los Angeles Times

· Stories on Internet sites such as WebMD,, Dr., American Health Line

· Coverage of our radio news release on 383 radio stations across the nation including our key markets of New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
· Radio interviews on syndicated radio shows such as American Urban Radio, Radio America and Pennsylvania’s National Public Radio

Pending Long-Lead Coverage:
Long-lead women’s magazines including: Glamour, Self, Family Circle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Day, Redbook, Latina, and Today’s Black Woman have conducted interviews and have stories planned for early 2002.

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