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35 A PUBLIC INFORMATION PROGRAM The committee believes that a carefully designed, long-term public in- formation program could contribute to the prevention of low birthweight. Such a program could help create a climate in which change and progress are possible and also convey specific types of information. Following a review of the basic elements that constitute a successful health information campaign, the committee sketched the broad outlines of a program directed at prevent- ing low birthweight. The plan incorporates two major objectives. The first is to call the problem of low birthweight to the public's attention and to reinforce its importance with the nation's leaders. The second is to help reduce Tow birthweight by conveying a set of ideas to the public about avoidance of important risk factors. Public Awareness Public awareness of the low birthweight problem is heightened by the release periodically of major reports by a variety of public and private organizations interested in maternal and child health. These reports, aimed at the nation's opinion leaders, are major resource documents for aciminis- trators, planners, legislators, and the news media. Because reports compiled and disseminated by the federal government often receive particularly widespread attention, the committee recommends that the office of the Assistant Secretary for Health develop and publicize a report every 3 years on the nation's progress in reducing low birthweight. This report should explore trends in Tow birthweight and present new information on causes and risks for both prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation (lUGR). Successful programs to combat Tow birthweight should be describecl and research priorities outlined. The development, presentation, and dissemination of the report should be managed to reach as many concerned groups and indivicluals as possible. Additionally, the annual statistical profile of the nation's health developed by the National Center for Health Statistics, Health: United States, periodically should include a special supplement or profile on low birthweight and its prevention. An Information Campaign Defining the audience is a crucial step in any public information program. The committee considered carefully whether such a program on preventing low birthweight should focus on only a few target groups or on the popula- tion generally and again reviewed the literature on risk factors and causes of preterm labor and JUGR. Because many of the risk factors for low birth- weight are widely distributed throughout the population, and because a substantial amount of low birthweight occurs among women judged to be at low risk, the committee concluded that the program should embrace a broad audience. Within this program, however, a special subset of messages should also be developed to reach three high-risk target groups: pregnant smokers, young teenagers, and socioeconomically disadvantaged women. Overall, the public information initiative should have two themes: (~) planning for pregnancy and (2) adopting good health practices in the