Public Service Ads to Protect You from Flu

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday that the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is joining the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, a non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, to launch a national public service advertisement (PSA).

The PSA is designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the flu this season.

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Sesame Workshop produced the television PSA, which features Secretary Sebelius and Sesame Street’s Elmo explaining the importance of healthy habits such as sneezing into the bend of your arm and staying home when you’re sick.

The PSA was unveiled by the Secretary at the Northside Center for Child Development in New York City.

The Ad Council will distribute the PSA nationwide next week and it will be supported in airtime donated by television stations. The spot is an extension of a campaign launched last year by HHS and the Ad Council to help Americans protect themselves from the seasonal flu.

Similarly, Faces of Influenza is a multi-media national and regional awareness program, which is designed to educate the public about this serious disease and encourage annual influenza immunization.

The initiative is being spearheaded by actress, Julie Bowen, who joins other celebrities, health officials and everyday people as they share their personal experiences with influenza disease and encourage annual influenza vaccination. (Read: Julie Bowen Joins the Influenza Campaign)

“We are excited about the opportunity to continue our partnership with Sesame Street and the Ad Council to share vital and important tips about staying healthy during flu season like washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve or a tissue and staying home if you’re sick,” said Sebelius.

In the U.S., the flu season occurs from fall through early spring. The overall health impact of a flu season varies from year to year. However, on average, each year 5 – 20 percent of the U.S. population get the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications.

And deaths from flu-related causes range from 3,300 to 48,600. Although the World Health Organization declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the H1N1 flu virus is expected to circulate again this flu season, along with other seasonal flu viruses.

The 2010-2011 flu vaccine includes protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus and other seasonal flu viruses.

The new PSA focuses on the importance of providing families and children with accurate information about how to practice healthy habits, highlighting proper hand-washing and simple everyday actions that lead to staying healthy and keeping germs away.

Created by Sesame Workshop, the television PSA encourages audiences to visit to get more information on how to stay healthy.

The PSA is an extension of Sesame’s Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which helps young children and their caregivers establish an early foundation of healthy habits.

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Rakesh Raman