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This campaign will be hard to miss

January 1, 2007
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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This issue's main cover story illustrates that addiction field organizations are becoming more sophisticated in their advocacy and public awareness efforts. Campaigns have grown beyond the days when they leaned on simple taglines such as “just say no.” Today they involve multiple messages incorporating both prevention and treatment strategies, and are more likely than ever to leverage the efforts of national, state, and local partners.

As 2007 got under way, word arrived of a multifaceted community effort that might prove to set a new standard for its comprehensiveness and visibility. Its unlikely catalyst is the pay television giant HBO, which in March will marshal all of its multimedia platforms for what it is terming a “groundbreaking public health initiative” called The ADDICTION Project.

HBO's partners in the effort are no small players in the field: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation all have lent their expertise and/or funding support to the project. The centerpiece of the media presentation will air on HBO as a 90-minute documentary on March 15, during a planned free preview week for HBO programming. But also to be released in conjunction with the documentary and with the support of platforms such as Web streams and DVD sales are a 14-part series of documentaries, four independent films on addiction, and a companion book to be published by Rodale Press.

HBO's representatives are calling The ADDICTION Project “eye-opening and ultimately hopeful” in its presentation of advancements in the understanding of drug and alcohol addiction and treatment. While this forward-looking focus could have a significant impact on the viewing public, a companion grassroots outreach campaign in 30 cities might ultimately have an even more lasting effect on advocacy and policy.

The partners in the grassroots campaign—Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Faces and Voices of Recovery, and Join Together—know a thing or two about community mobilization. With help from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, these groups have established Addiction and Recovery: Communities Take Action to encourage the formation of local partnerships to promote the HBO presentations and build community responses to the issues they raise. Most of the nation's major metropolitan areas are among the 30 participating cities.

The national partners expect activities emanating from Addiction and Recovery: Communities Take Action, including town hall meetings, briefings, and other community events, to extend right through the traditional Recovery Month programming that takes place nationwide in September. By emphasizing the promise of recovery, arguing for new attitudes and policies, and tapping into today's diversity of technologies for outreach, the campaigns that are about to get under way could make 2007 a watershed year for public awareness of addiction and its treatment.

Gary A. Enos, Editor