Using a PSA Program to Increase Awareness of Developmental Issues

The problem of a high prevalence of children residing in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, with developmental and behavioral disabilities was identified by a local pediatric practice. These children with disabilities were not being referred for diagnosis and intervention by parents and medical care practices in northeastern Pennsylvania. A task force was organized to deal with the problem, and it was decided to utilize a marketing approach to increase the awareness of this problem among parents and other potential referral sources throughout the county. The marketing approach to solving this very serious health problem was launched in late 2007.

The marketing program was created and implemented by local pediatricians. Public service announcements (PSAs) were developed and disseminated in the local media, day-care centers, and other locations that support children's programs to communicate the need for increased awareness of potential childhood development problems, These PSAs were printed flyers containing information about the signs of behavioral and developmental problems that might be found in young children, along with a method of referral to appropriate medical care. The information from the PSAs was turned into a fact sheet that was used by local media, sports, and medical celebrities familiar to the targeted population to present the information. This promotional campaign also focused on making local physicians aware of the magnitude of this problem in Luzerne County. A secondary part of this campaign targeted whether or not a group of community volunteers could improve awareness and early referral of children less than three years of age to medical care. For this study, children's developmental and behavioral disabilities were defined as abnormalities involving speech, cognitive, fine motor, or gross motor development. The volunteers included pediatricians, family practice physicians, representatives from media outlets, and a number of community leaders from Luzerne County.

Table CS2.1 Preschool Referrals, July 1,2005, to December 31,2011

Fiscal/SchoolYear (July 1-June 30)

Aggregate

Count

Infant/Toddler

Referred

Students

Referred Students OtherThan l/T Referrals

No. of Referred Students Diagnosed with Developmental Delay

2005 06

778

112

666

372

2006 07

782

105

677

392

2007-08

952

152

800

476

2008-09

980

171

809

490

2009-10

993

207

786

521

2010-11*

826*

100*

726

NA

Note: NA = Not available.

*For the time period July 1,2010, to December 31,2011.

This program has substantially increased referrals to early intervention programs, as shown in Table CS2.1. The number of infants and toddlers experiencing developmental and behavioral problems and referred to medical care has increased every year since 2006. This program continues to further develop this marketing approach to a community health problem and is expanding the program to neighboring counties.

Conclusion

The incidence of developmental and behavioral disabilities is much higher in Luzerne County than in most other counties in Pennsylvania. This problem motivated a community group to mobilize a task force of volunteers including physicians and community leaders to attempt to improve awareness of the problem and increase referrals of children with these disabilities to medical care, before they reach three years of age. The intervention was successful, and reports indicate that referrals to medical care for children with developmental disabilities have increased.

The success of this project has motivated the group of volunteers to consider the development of a website (to be hosted by a local college) to further increase awareness of this child health problem among a much larger percentage of the county population. The website will offer a pretest, followed by a ten-minute educational program about the signs and symptoms of developmental and behavioral disabilities, and then it will offer a posttest of knowledge gained from watching the program. This educational program will consist of a series of voice-narrated PowerPoint slides utilizing a local pediatrician who will discuss the signs and symptoms of these disabilities in children under the age of three and the need for early referral to medical care.

 
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