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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks and the CDC to Collaborate on Large-Scale Ad Council Awareness Campaign


NEW YORK (March 31, 2006) - Autism Speaks and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced they will collaborate on Autism Speaks' multi-year Ad Council public service advertising campaign and on the CDC's “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign. Both campaigns stress the importance of recognizing the early signs of autism and seeking early intervention services.

The Autism Speaks ads will begin running on April 6, during the first week of Autism Awareness Month. The public service campaign is being created pro bono by advertising agency BBDO and will run across all media platforms, including print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet. On average, Ad Council PSA campaigns garner more than $28 million in donated media each year. The ads, which are also available in Spanish for TV, will drive people to autismspeaks.org or to call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information about autism.

The Autism Speaks campaign is aimed at the general public and will focus on increasing awareness of the fact that autism is more common than people think. CDC's campaign will continue to provide health care professionals with information about early screening for developmental problems, and will work to raise awareness among day care providers nationwide.

“Early diagnosis of autism is critical -- kids who start receiving treatment early on can experience astounding results,” said Bob Wright, who co-founded Autism Speaks with his wife Suzanne in February 2005. “CDC's commitment to working with us on this initiative will bolster the efficacy of the Ad Council campaign in a significant way. Together, we will get this important message out to everyone who should hear it.”

“We've come a long way recently in our efforts to get people to recognize and understand disorders like autism," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “But we must strengthen these efforts because autism continues to rob too many families of all that life has to offer. This campaign partnership is an important part of our efforts, and one that we hope will help to further educate people about autism and foster early diagnoses. Early intervention can help children grow to be as happy and healthy as possible throughout all stages of their lives.”

CDC's “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign was launched in 2004 and in the past two years has reached nearly 35 million health care professionals, parents, child care providers and community champions through public service announcements, electronic and news media, health care conferences, and other outreach efforts. The campaign messages focus on the importance of parents learning the signs of healthy, age-appropriate child development, and the importance of health care professionals acting early if a problem is detected. CDC provides information to English and Spanish-speaking parents, and this year will intensify outreach to child care professionals who may be the first to notice a child who is lagging behind his or her peers.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in about one in 166 children, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. CDC has called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

“The Ad Council has been raising awareness and making a positive impact on the health of all Americans for decades. The significant increase in children being diagnosed with autism in this country is alarming. We are proud to partner with Autism Speaks and the CDC to raise awareness about this devastating disorder and inspire parents to seek early intervention for their child,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council.

Joining Autism Speaks with key roles in this ambitious initiative are Cure Autism Now (CAN) and the Autism Society of America (ASA). CAN drafted and led the lobbying effort to pass the legal mandate for a federal autism awareness program within the Children's Health Act of 2000. CAN also secured the continued appropriations that have funded the CDC's awareness campaign for the last three years. To date, these efforts have totaled more than $7 million.

“We have always felt that the dollars we secured for the CDC awareness program were a platform for a broader national campaign, and that this sort of public/private partnership is the most effective approach,” said Peter Bell, CEO of CAN and a member of the Autism Speaks Awareness Campaign Advisory Committee.

Other members of the Autism Speaks' Awareness Campaign Advisory Committee include Dr. Jose Cordero, Director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities; Dr. Katherine Lyon Daniel, Associate Director of Communication Science at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities; Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Chair of Autism Speaks' Scientific Advisory Committee; Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health; Dr. Chris Plauche Johnson, Co-Chair of the Autism Expert Panel of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Ami Klin, Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center, Yale University; Dr. Cathy Pratt, Chair of the Board of Directors, Autism Society of America (ASA); Jeff Sell, Director of Chapters and Membership, Autism Society of America (ASA); Jonathan Shestack, President of Shestack Productions and co-founder of Cure Autism Now (CAN); and Alison Singer, Senior Vice President of Autism Speaks.



About Autism Speaks



Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of the growing autism epidemic and to raising money to fund scientists who are searching for a cure. Suzanne and Bob Wright founded it in February 2005. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) recently combined operations, bringing together two of the leading organizations dedicated to accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increasing awareness of autism, the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder; and to advocating for the needs of affected families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/



About The Advertising Council



The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a 60-year history of marshalling volunteer talent from advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. The Ad Council has produced thousands of public service campaigns that address the most pressing social issues of the day. Ad Council icons and slogans are woven into the very fabric of American culture – from Smokey Bear's “only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” and McGruff the Crime Dog's “Take A Bite Out of Crime,” to the United Negro College Fund's “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” and “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk.” Last year, the Ad Council received more than $1.7 billion in donated advertising time and space from the media. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit its Web site, http://www.adcouncil.org/.



About Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves. Information on CDC's “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign can be found at
www.cdc.gov/actearly (in Spanish at www.cdc.gov/pronto), or by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO.