New York program boosts EC awareness

Radio spots, posters, drink coasters in restaurants and bars, and subway advertisements are making sure it’s no accident that New Yorkers know about access to emergency contraception (EC). Using a media campaign revolving around the theme, "Accidents Happen," Planned Parent-hood of New York City (PPNYC) has launched an intensive three-month media campaign to highlight the availability of EC at its three city clinics.

Advertising has been a proven factor in guiding women to the clinics for EC services, says Joan Malin, CEO of the Planned Parenthood affiliate. In 1998-99, the organization advertised its EC services and saw an increase in the number of women coming in for such care, she notes.

"In the year 2000, we did 4,500 visits for EC, and that was an increase of 40% in 1999, and a 70% increase from 1998," states Malin. "Clearly by advertising and spreading the word, women are getting the messages that these services are available, which is terrific."

The campaign kicked off in late April with radio spots featured on local stations. Developed by the national Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York, the radio spots are voiced by Grammy-winning artists Dice Raw and Scratch from The Roots and Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan. A Spanish-language advertisement also is being aired on a local Hispanic station.

PPNYC placed framed posters advertising EC in restrooms in more than 100 restaurants and bars in New York City from late April through June and distributed drink coasters promoting EC in participating restaurants and bars. Subway advertisements were posted from May through June.

Get the message out

By using the national Planned Parenthood advertising materials and localizing them with the PPNYC logo and address, the New York organization is able to direct its dollars toward placement of the advertisements, says Malin.

"As it is, it is going to cost us over $100,000 to do this program, but it would be far more if we had to go out and actually engage these services," states Malin.

The campaign will end with placement of movie slides promoting the EC awareness campaign in theaters in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Harlem communities during the summer.

"We’re hoping that this gets the message out that this service is here and can make a critical difference," says Malin.

Women who contact PPNYC directly through its confidential appointment and information hotline [(212) 965-7000], or through the national Planned Parenthood’s toll-free number [(800) 230-PLAN (7526)] can receive information about EC, says Jini Tanenhaus, PA-C, associate vice president for the Clinician Training Initiative at PPNYC. If women have had unprotected intercourse in the last 72 hours, they are advised to come into one of the affiliates’ three clinics for care.

Following a medical assessment, women are given Plan B (Women’s Capital Corp., Bellevue, WA) at the clinic, as well as a written prescription for Preven (Gynétics, Belle Mead, NJ) as a prophylactic measure for future use, says Tanenhaus.

"Everyone who comes in who doesn’t have some type of permanent method of birth control [such as an intrauterine device, contraceptive injectable, or contraceptive implant] gets offered a prescription for EC so they can have it at home in their medicine cabinet to use," states Tanenhaus.

PPNYC is evaluating the possibility of performing EC medical assessments over the telephone to further enlarge access to the pregnancy prevention method, says Tanenhaus. (See Contraceptive Technology Update, June 2001, p. 67, for information on two Planned Parenthood affiliates that are offering such services.)

"It is a bit of a logistical problem in terms of working it out, but we hope to do that in the future," Tanenhaus states. "Women could just get an assessment over the telephone, we could read them the consent information, and then call or fax in a prescription."

Fact sheets and web help educate

All three PPNYC centers are open Tuesday through Saturday and offer EC services, says Malin. But when women call over the weekend, they are directed to the Margaret Sanger clinic on Monday for what is known as "EC Day" the other two clinics, Boro Hall Center in Brooklyn and the Bronx Center, are closed on Mondays. Fact sheets and brochures in each clinic give further details on EC, as does the affiliate’s web site, www.ppnyc. org/homepage.html.

When women come in for EC services, it gives Planned Parenthood providers an opportunity to talk about family planning and the need for planning before any "accidents," says Malin. The awareness campaign is just one more step in letting women know about the availability of EC.

"Widespread use of EC could prevent half of all unintended pregnancies and half of all abortions," states Malin. "In New York City alone, with increased availability and public awareness, EC could potentially eliminate 100,000 unintended pregnancies and up to 50,000 abortions a year."

For more information on Planned Parenthood of New York City’s emergency contraception program, contact:

Jini Tanenhaus, PA-C, Planned Parenthood of New York City, (212) 274-7200.

For more information on the affiliate, visit its web site at