80: New Long Haulers Media Campaign

Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a non-profit organization, debuts a media campaign sharing stories of young people suffering from Long COVID; The White House hosts a Maternal Health Day of Action event; and ASTHO is hiring...

Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a non-profit organization, debuts a media campaign sharing stories of young people suffering from Long COVID; The White House hosts a Maternal Health Day of Action event; and ASTHO is hiring for several open positions.

Webpage: Resolve to Save Lives Launches First-of-its-kind “Voices of Long COVID” Media Campaign Throughout the United States

Download webpage: Help Promote the Voices of Long COVID

The White House: Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Maternal Day of Action Summit

ASTHO webpage: Job Opportunities in Public Health and at ASTHO

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, December 8th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.  

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.  



I used to be a healthy and strong member of the Air Force, but now I struggle lifting anything over five pounds. I have a lot of nausea, dizziness, and a racing heart, and I can't comprehend words at times.  

This has honestly been a very scary journey. How do I adjust my life for this?  


That's the voice of Isaiah Smith, a young Air Force veteran infected with the COVID-19 virus in October 2020, just before vaccines were available. Now, he suffers the effects of long COVID.  

Isaiah is one of three young people telling their stories in a new campaign produced by the non-profit Resolve to Save Lives. Dr. Tom Frieden leads the organization. He joins us for today's morning conversation.  

Tell us what led to this campaign.  


What we've seen is that there are many people—probably hundreds of thousands of people—in the U.S. who are suffering from the long-term effects of COVID. At the same time, the 18–29 year old group—who we used to call the invincibles—are not getting vaccinated in as high numbers as we would hope.  

We put those two observations together and created a series of ads telling the real life stories of young people suffering from long COVID because we believe, and we have good evidence to support, that the more people who see those ads, the more young people will get back to negative.  


I've seen pictures of my first few dates with my boyfriend, and I just have no recollection of any of those memories, even though I can see that they happened and I can hear about them. I can't get those back.  


That's Katelyn Van Dyke, another young person featured in the campaign. She also caught the virus before there was a vaccine.  

What do you hope will come from this effort? 


In the short term, I hope more jurisdictions will use the ads. We spent a lot of money, we made really good ads; but we made the decision not to run them ourselves. There is money out there from the various COVID supplementals, and we hope that cities, states, localities will join the others that are running these ads; because, ultimately, it's about getting more people vaccinated, whether it's Omicron or Delta or Pi or the next one. 

We know that our two strongest tools are vaccination and masking, and we need to do more to reach different people in public health. As we all know, the key is to find the right messages and the right messengers, and young people talking about long COVID is the right messenger and the right message for a lot of young people who may be reluctant to get vaccinated.  


I used to run five to six miles a day. Now, when I walk up a flight of stairs, I'm gasping for air. It's surreal that I'm going through this.  

It feels like my brain is clouded, and I can't think straight most of the time. One of the main effects of the brain fog is, you know, you just feel really tired. 


So, you think hearing from someone like Rob Smith—who looks like the target audience, talks like them, maybe is the same age as the audience—that that'll get the job done? 


That's part of it. The other part that's important is that what we found in public health is that what motivates people most is understanding and seeing vivid stories of the disability that they may face.  

We learned this lesson when we ran the Tips From Former Smokers campaign at CDC. You'd think that maybe people would be motivated to quit smoking if they knew how great they'd feel after—well, no, that doesn't work very well; or that they'd be motivated to quit if they knew that they were going to die—that actually doesn't work very well either.  

What does work? You're showing them the personal stories of people who are disabled and disfigured by smoking; and by the same token, in the same vein, what we see with the long COVID story is the story of people suffering from long COVID is very motivating to people to get vaccinated.  


Ultimately, how far do you think we'll have to go with this messaging? Do you think we'll see an ad someday featuring someone on a ventilator? 


I think what we found for this group, the 18–29s, is the messages from people who are believable, relatable in their demographic group, that's very powerful.  

I've had many of the people who've seen these ads have commented on the young woman who said she couldn't remember the first date she had with her boyfriend—she's got brain fog. Another guy used to run five miles, now can't climb a flight of stairs. These are vivid stories. 

In public health, we love data—data is our lifeblood; but to convince people, we need stories—real stories of real people.  


The elements of the campaign are available online. You can download them using a link in today's show notes.  


The White House hosted a Maternal Health Day of Action event yesterday. It featured testimonials from athletes and elected officials. 

The day-long summit also explored the administration's plans to address maternal health in its proposed Build Back Better act.  


Finally this morning, ASTHO is hiring to fill several open positions. Among them, the organization needs: a specialist in crisis communication; a director for the overdose, preparedness, and response team; and a consultant working on health equity strategy.  

You can find more information about these and other jobs using the link in the show notes.  


That'll do it for today's report.  


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Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.  

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day. 


Tom Frieden MD MPH

President and CEO