AT A GLANCE: Vascular Society campaign targets policymakers

What is the Vascular Society up to?
It is trying to highlight a condition called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) to MPs and lords who have influence on health policy. AAA is caused when the main artery from the heart to the abdomen widens, weakens and bursts, causing internal bleeding that is almost always fatal. Nearly 7,000 people, mostly men, die suddenly and without symptoms from the condition each year.

What are the key comms messages?
That AAA is the third biggest killer of men over 65 years old, but many deaths would be avoided by the establishment of a national ultrasound screening and treatment scheme in England and Wales. In a nutshell: for £25m, which is half the cost of breast cancer screening, as many lives – over 3,000 – could be saved every year.

How has the society approached the campaign?
The Circulation Society, which is the fundraising arm of the Vascular Society, held an awareness-raising event at the House of Commons last week, to which 300 politicians were invited. Ann Keen, current parliamentary under-secretary for health services, and former Tory leader Michael Howard, were among the attendees.

Who is handling the PR campaign?
Circulation Society fundraising manager Terrie McCann oversees comms, but a release on the event was put out by Royal College of Surgeons media comms manager Matt Worrall. The Vascular Society is one of 22 surgical associations based in the college’s building.

What about media coverage?
The society had a slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today. A pre-recorded piece on AAA with health correspondent Jane Draper involved MP Howard Stoate, who is also a GP, being screened for the condition.

What happens next?
More awareness raising. The National Screening Committee, which is a NICE-style body for health screening programmes, has already approved the idea of AAA screening on the NHS, but the Government has yet to approve it. There is an ongoing poster campaign in vascular clinics and, from January 2008, there will be a tie-up with Marks & Spencer, whereby a donation will be made to the Vascular Society from the sales of the retailer’s Per Una range of fitness wear.

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