WASHINGTON: With an intensity of interest that recalls the coverage surrounding breast cancer more than a decade ago, the American media this year has taken up heart disease as the leading woman's health issue.
Time, Glamour, and Prevention are just three of the high-profile media outlets that have published stories drawing attention to the little-known fact that heart disease, not breast cancer, is the number-one killer of women, striking one out of every three women.
Much of the coverage has resulted from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) awareness campaign. Orchestrated and executed by Ogilvy PR, "The Heart Truth" campaign has resulted not only in some cover stories, but also in a long-term editorial commitment from Glamour magazine to devote a monthly column to the issue.
"This is really going to be our foremost health concern," said Wendy Naugle, Glamour's health director.
The October issue is dedicated to heart health, with an interview with First Lady Laura Bush and an editor's note and a major feature on the subject.
Central to the campaign is the dramatic symbol of a red dress, created by Ogilvy with the hope that it will become to this campaign what the pink ribbon has been to breast cancer awareness. Shania Twain appears on the Glamour cover in a red dress, and the feature's layout is studded with shots of celebrities donning red frocks.
The Red Dress Project was launched during Fashion Week in February, with the message that "heart disease doesn't care what you wear - it's the #1 killer of women."
The symbol was created by Ogilvy global creative director Beth Ruoff, who is acknowledged in Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive's note. Through research from a series of focus groups over several months, Ruoff learned that heart disease was primarily associated with men.
"I wanted to come up with a symbol that would appeal to women and open their eyes," she said.
The agency's Washington office began working on the campaign in September 2001. The recent media effort isn't designed as a campaign as much as it is the first part of a long-term movement, said Ogilvy account director Sally McDonough.
"We need to raise public awareness," she said. "Unlike breast cancer, heart disease is something that can be prevented."
Another wave of media attention is sure to come in February, which is National Heart Month. Glamour is planning more editorial coverage, as well as a "Wear Red Day."