Health Kick Is Worth $125 Mil.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is moving forward on its national Youth Media Campaign.

Congress has appropriated$125 million to underwrite a nationwide CDC program aimed at developing healthy habits in so-called “tweens,” youth between the ages of nine and 13.

“We’ve got the funding for this year and, at this stage, we’re building the program by soliciting proposals from advertising and public relations companies,” said Michael Greenwell, CDC’s associate director of communications.

An Internet-based request for proposal (www.eps.gov) has been issued, seeking letters of intent from advertising and public relations agencies. The deadline for returning questionnaires is May 4.

As of last week, more than 200 shops participated in question-and-answer conference calls hosted by the client. The effort will be administered by the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Congress has put a different spin on the project. Unlike ongoing anti-tobacco work or the battle against AIDS, the emphasis in the youth media campaign will be encouraging healthful behavior among a population segment that, according to research, is increasingly inactive and overweight.

“We want ideas on how to reach this audience,” said Greenwell. “And messages encouraging young people to be involved in positive activities, like exercise, that will displace opportunities for the kinds of things that are unhealthy, like smoking and physical inactivity.”

As presently conceived, the two-pronged campaign will involve a general market effort and a separate program targeting minority youth. Information regarding both options is accessible online.

The CDC has used Porter Novelli in Washington, D.C., and Aeffort in Chicago to help with the preliminary stages of the outreach. The two shops, along with Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and Prospect Associates, Westat, the Academy for Educational Development and Macro International, all Washington, have five-year contracts with the CDC.

“None of this affects anybody else’s ability to compete,” said Greenwell.

Former Illinois Congressman John Porter was instrumental in securing appropriations for the project, which marks the first time the Atlanta-based CDC has embarked on a paid media effort.