Getting the message out

A Member Bulletin from the National Office of the Canadian Celiac Association

By creating increased awareness of Celiac Disease, our hope is to greatly reduce the number of celiac sufferers who go undiagnosed. The Canadian Celiac Association is planning a busy 2010, with many new initiatives in the works including the launch of our new Awareness Campaign aimed at reaching both the general public and family physicians.

In mid-2009, the Awareness Committee retained the services of Pete Pallett, a communications professional with extensive experience in putting together health awareness and social marketing campaigns for clients such as Health Canada, the Canadian AIDS Society and Concerned Children’s Advertisers. Together, we have planned and are getting ready to  implement a comprehensive, integrated campaign that includes public service ads on the web and in consumer newspapers and magazines, as well as a significant presence at a major Canadian medical convention.

In order to maximize our available resources and achieve the overall communications objective of reducing the number of undiagnosed Celiacs in Canada, we will be launching an awareness campaign to the general public first, and then later in 2010, implementing a campaign directly targeting family physicians.

The cost of purchasing newspaper and magazine advertising is prohibitive at this time, given the Association’s limited budgets. However, our plan is to make an appeal to the media to run our ads as a public service, given that CCA is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit charitable organization with a mandate of saving lives by educating the public.

The Association will approach national media, and we will be depending on individual Chapters to distribute PSA materials to their local media including daily newspapers, community newspapers, and local radio and TV outlets.

That’s right, TV. As well as providing Chapters with print ads, web banners and a radio commercial, we are hoping to include a PSA for use on TV. Chapters will also be able to access finished art for posters and a brochure which they can tag with their contact information and take directly to a printer.

This is a “rough layout”, meaning the photo isn’t finalized and neither is the text in the ad. Our idea is to warn consumers that, if they have celiac disease and are undiagnosed, then ordinary, everyday foods like pizza, pasta, hotdogs and cookies can be toxic and poisonous.

We will be conducting a similar PSA campaign targeting family doctors (rough layout of the ad is below) beginning in September of 2010. An appeal will be made to medical publications such as the Canadian Medical Journal on the basis that the CCA provides an educational service to doctors and is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit charitable organization with a mandate of saving lives.

As we were preparing this story, we were notified of some great news. Dr. Jenni Zelin, who serves on our Physician Advisory Board, has been accepted to present a paper on Celiac Disease before roughly 2,000 physicians at the 2010 Family Medicine Forum, held in October in Vancouver. We are also reserving a booth at the Forum, where we will have a display, brochures and more information for doctors.

We’re taking a different tangent with the ad created for doctors. Often, as you know, Celiac Disease is a clinical chameleon with a wide gamut of symptoms that makes diagnosis by observation very challenging. Our ad likens Celiac Disease to an animal that is in plain sight, but camouflaged so that it is extremely difficult to spot. What you see above is a rough idea of what the ad will look like.

We are counting on our Chapters from coast to coast to support our efforts, and help us make this program successful in reducing the number of undiagnosed Celiacs. We will be giving Chapters a more comprehensive overview of the Awareness Campaign later this Spring and again at the National Conference. We also want to put together a social media campaign, and would appreciate any Member’s expertise in this area, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Please contact the Awareness Committee’s Marilyn Dion if you’re interested in lending a hand; her email address is