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Public Health/Policy - Public Relations Case Studies

Red Ball  Releasing a Public Health Report The New York Academy of Medicine
Red Ball  Branding an Awards Program Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Red Ball  Taking the Air Out of Big Tobacco Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Red Ball  Removing Barriers to ER Alcohol Screening Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Red Ball  Promoting Diverse Health Care Leadership Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Releasing a Public Health Report

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The New York Academy of Medicine
How do you release a highly detailed report on disaster preparedness in a way that achieves maximum media impact (with a limited budget)?  Tartaglia Communications’ solution for The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) was to host an audio news conference, which would simultaneously reach a geographically diverse journalist audience. The report, “Resilient Communities,” focused on the experiences of elderly residents of New York City neighborhoods that were hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, and contained more than a dozen recommendations for policymakers, community based organizations – and for the seniors themselves.

We worked closely with NYAM staff to narrow down the report’s findings and recommendations to those that were the most significant (and easiest for the media to report on) for use in press materials and briefing remarks, consulted on the technical details of the event, advised on whether the event should be media-only, made recommendations on the timing of our event (which had to be done mid-to-late summer), and began one-on-one reporter outreach.  The result:  thirteen reporters participated in the audio briefing, and a number of others didn’t participate but produced stories on the report.  Among those who covered the report were NBC’s News 4, which aired a 4.5 minute in-studio interview with NYAM President Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford; NPR affiliate WFUV-FM; the American Public Health Association’s The Nation’s Health; Pacifica Radio’s WBAI-FM, which aired a 15-minute segment; numerous borough-focused daily and weekly newspapers; and a number of aging and disaster preparedness websites and blogs.

Branding an Awards Program

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Dr. Jack Henningfield, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Innovators Combating Substance Abuse awards program, asked Dennis Tartaglia and colleagues to develop an event that would convene key stakeholders in the substance abuse policy, treatment, prevention, research and advocacy communities under the banner of the Innovators program – recently relocated to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Tartaglia conceptualized, developed and directed an “addiction policy summit” at the National Press Club, which would achieve this objective. Hosted by Dr. Henningfield and RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, and headlined by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD, the event increased brand recognition of the Innovators program. More than 150 attended, including leadership of federal agencies, key Congressional staff and many others. Although not a press event, the summit was covered by Reuters, NPR and other leading news organizations.  This program won PRSA’s Big Apple Award.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Testimonial


Taking the Air Out of Big Tobacco

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Leadership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Innovators Combating Substance Abuse awards program asked Dennis Tartaglia to generate media attention for two scientific papers by James Repace, leading secondhand smoke researcher and Innovators Award recipient.  The studies were the first to focus on indoor air quality before and after a hospitality industry smoking ban, and the first to demonstrate conclusively that high-tech ventilation (promoted by the tobacco industry) doesn’t clear the air of dangerous toxins.

Tartaglia designed two wide-ranging, consumer-friendly media campaigns platformed on solid science.  He also worked with the Foundation to reach out to national tobacco control groups to disseminate findings to public health advocates at the community level. The result was a reach of more than 1,000 news stories, including extensive national coverage and stories in all top 50 markets.  Initial coverage led to editorials in major newspapers nationwide and helped support passage of smoke-free ballot initiatives in 11 U.S. states and cities.  Each of the two campaigns was nominated for PRWeek’s “Nonprofit Campaign of the Year” award and won a number of other major honors.


Removing Barriers to ER Alcohol Screening

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Noted trauma surgeon Dr. Larry Gentilello conducted research that demonstrated a dramatic decline in repeat ER visits when people with alcohol-related injuries were screened and counseled briefly in the emergency room. Dr. Gentilello further uncovered arcane laws in most states that allowed insurers to deny claims for patients who used alcohol prior to their ER visit.  Further research revealed that these laws act as a deterrent to alcohol screening and counseling in the ER and trauma center.

Between 2001 and 2007, Dennis Tartaglia worked with Dr. Gentilello and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Innovators Combating Substance Abuse program on numerous media campaigns around this issue.  The campaigns resulted in feature stories in major national and regional newspapers and trade publications, supported successful repeal efforts in a number of states, and helped bring the issue to the attention of the American College of Surgeons, which recently began requiring trauma centers to screen for alcohol.


Promoting Diverse Health Care Leadership

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For four years, Dennis Tartaglia provided senior communications counsel to Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The fellowship program sought to develop the next generation of diverse leadership in addiction-related fields.

Tartaglia’s charge was to showcase the program and the fellows in professional publications, regional newspapers and organizational newsletters.  He exceeded this goal, and worked with the fellows to develop feature stories, op-eds and bylined articles on topics ranging from substance abuse in the elderly to smoking in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He also created and led a series of workshops, teleconferences and one-on-one consultations for the fellows on topics ranging from media interview techniques to branding. 


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