Allergan is launching a policy-focused social media campaign promoting its lap-band weight loss surgery with a populist tinge.
The Irvine, CA-based firm's “C.H.O.I.C.E.” campaign (“Choosing Health over Obesity Inspiring Change through Empowerment”) features a video contest for lap-band patients, the 12 winners of which will get an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC – to lobby Congress for increased access to the surgery.
Allergan is asking visitors to campaign websites to sign a petition asking Congress to recognize that “Obesity is not a choice – it's a disease,” and that “With less invasive procedures available (like gastric banding), weight-loss surgery has the potential to be a catalyst for change in the health of our citizens and the financial stability of our healthcare system.” In particular, the campaign suggests that surgery may be the only path to permanent weight loss for 15 million “severely obese” Americans who are 100 pounds or more overweight.
“There's a lot of talk from Congress about obesity as a key threat,” said Cathy Taylor, senior manager, corporate communications at Allergan. “We're looking at Congress as a way to influence all parties,” including medical societies, healthcare professionals and consumers. The problem, said Taylor, isn't so much reimbursement as a need for national guidelines that recognize surgery as a treatment option for those patients.
The contest, dubbed the “Voice My C.H.O.I.C.E. Contest,” asks lap-band patients to submit a short essay or video about their weight-loss experience and how it has impacted their lives and health. The winners "will serve as a voice for those whose weight struggles continue and urge legislators to understand the importance of access to all effective treatments."
Allergan hopes to get 250,000 signatures on the petition, which “will be hand-delivered to legislators in September by a group of consumer advocates who will share their personal struggles and life-long journey of combating obesity.” The company will donate $250,000 to The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services' Department of Health Policy in support of its Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance.
Campaign sites include mychoicecampaign.com
, along with a Facebook “Cause” and a Twitter feed. Chandler Chicco Agency is handling PR on the campaign, while InTouch Solutions is handling social media.