By: Denise Thompson, Southeast Health District WIC Nutritionist
As a coalition, Southeast Health District's Mommy & Me, As Healthy As Can Be, explored effective ways to provide education and normalize breastfeeding in the rural south. Located in the southeast pocket of Georgia, Tattnall County has a staggering rate of breastfeeding. In 2014, only 22% of Tattnall Mothers breastfed compared to 49% nationally. Many barriers contribute to these low rates including poverty, the need to return to work post-labor, lack of work-place policies, and the social stigma of breastfeeding. Advertising was a must, and we chose billboards because they reach a large and diverse market with a high frequency of customers being repeatedly exposed to the promotion.
As a coalition, we cannot continually stand outside with signs that applaud those who are currently or planning to breastfeed. Neither can we stand at festivals in a booth daily to handout education or speak to every employer on the benefits of supporting breastfeeding for their employees and customers. However, a billboard can give education and encouragement constantly. Honestly, if a billboard is designed right, it can reach a vast amount of different groups of people that a coalition may not be able to reach.
We have a total of four billboards located in the surrounding area of Tattnall County. The four locations are Hwy 280, east of Vidalia, Hwy 280 at Brinson Road, US 301, north of Glennville, and US 341, 1 mile south of Baxley. One prime rule of real-estate is location, location, location. We felt this rule applied to promotional material as well and wanted those traveling in and out of Tattnall County to be able to see the billboards. We are anticipating that the one year of time that these billboards have, will reap benefits in our community for years to come.
During our coalition meeting, our team discussed different design options. We reminisced about previous billboards that were memorable and what were current trends that would be appealing not only to Moms, but their families as well. There were two designs created to help with our mission. An ”Eat Local” theme and “I breastfeed” super hero theme. We choose a super hero character because it’s colorful, eye catching, and we hoped that it would grab the attention of Dads and kids to open up the conversation on breastfeeding.
The response has been astonishing at this point because our WIC clients were coming into the local health department excited about the “new billboards” they had been seeing and we were not even aware they were out yet. Word traveled fast! We hope to encourage our superheroes and their families to continue to save the day. The definition of a superhero consists of an exceptionally skillful or successful person that has extraordinary powers -which we feel Moms do. Although Moms may not wear the cape or mask, they are still real life superheroes that fly in to save the day. They work all hours of the night, and just a drop of their breastmilk contains around one million white blood cells. A Mom’s nourishment can provide benefits for their child for years to come. Seems pretty heroic right? If the shoe fits they say to wear it, so we are encouraging our Moms to lace up and put on those shoes!