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American Lung Association Launches National Influenza Education Initiative to Encourage Americans to See Themselves Among the “Faces of Influenza"


September 19, 2006 – Influenza immunization rates fall far short every year, even though health experts recommend more than 200 million people in the US receive an annual influenza vaccination. The American Lung Association today launched the Faces of Influenza, a multi-year national public awareness initiative to help Americans put a “face” on this serious disease and recognize annual influenza immunization as an important preventative measure to protect themselves and their families every year.

Celebrities, public health officials and everyday people have joined the Faces of Influenza initiative, sharing their personal stories about their experiences with the disease and encouraging influenza vaccination among target groups.

These groups include people 50 years of age and older, young children, everyone in close contact with people who have high-risk conditions, health care providers and anyone else who wants to prevent this serious respiratory illness that, along with its complications, kills an average of 36,000 people and hospitalizes about 226,000 people in the US every year.“Despite serious health risks associated with influenza, many people, including people with chronic health problems, young children and those 50 years and older, are not getting immunized,” says Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “Two out of three Americans should be vaccinated every year, which means it’s likely each one of us knows someone whose well-being, good health or life depends on getting an influenza immunization each and every year.”

The Lung Association held a major press event in New York City today to announce the initiative and to unveil the Faces of Influenza Portrait Gallery—a photo exhibition of dramatic black-and-white portraits and personal stories of famous and not-so-famous Americans, who fall into one or more of the groups recommended for immunization by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Actress Jean Smart, Emmy-nominated for her role on Fox’s 24, has partnered with the Lung Association as its national spokesperson for Faces of Influenza. Smart, who has diabetes—one of the high-risk groups recommended for annual influenza immunization—urges families to see themselves among the “faces” featured in the program and to seek influenza prevention.

“We live in a world where people tend to take risks,” said Smart. “But influenza does not have to be one of those risks. Take influenza seriously and help prevent it through vaccination. I do, and I hope others will get serious about vaccination for themselves, their families and others they care about.”

Other celebrities involved the Faces of Influenza initiative are: Actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on ABC’s Lois and Clark and stars on NBC’s Las Vegas; Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguchi; Dr. Joyce Brothers, well-known psychologist and advice columnist; Joy Behar, comedian and co-host of ABC’s The View; Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers; and Actor Peter Gallagher, star of Fox’s The OC.

The Lung Association is also working with everyday Americans from across the country, including two families who lost their children to influenza—one a twin boy, who died at six months of age; the other a healthy four-year-old girl. Others in the program have asthma, diabetes or other chronic medical conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). One is pregnant, and participates to help stress the importance of immunization for women who will be pregnant during influenza season. There are also photos of health care providers, who should be immunized every year to protect themselves and their patients.

Faces of Influenza Awareness Activities
The initiative also includes educational materials as well as the national distribution of new television and radio public service announcements featuring Jean Smart and the target groups recommended for influenza immunization. The Lung Association has developed a new Web site,, where consumers and health care providers can find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the Web site can also view the photographs and stories featured in the Faces of Influenza Portrait Gallery, view the public service campaign and utilize the Lung Association’s Flu Clinic Locator (the largest online directory of public influenza clinics).

Six local Lung Association chapters are planning regional Faces of Influenza awareness activities in Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis/St. Paul to raise awareness about this serious disease and the importance of annual influenza immunization.

About Influenza
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that, along with its complications, kills an average of 36,000 Americans and puts approximately 226,000 in the hospital each year. Adults and children with a chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD and diabetes, are at increased risk for complications from influenza and should be immunized every year. People 50 years of age and older, pregnant women and children 6-59 months of age, as well as their household contacts should also be vaccinated to help prevent influenza-related complications and the spread of this dangerous virus.

About the Flu Clinic Locator
In addition to this new campaign, the Lung Association continues to offer its Flu Clinic Locator as a public service. By typing in their 5-digit zip code, site visitors can receive a list of immunization clinics in their area. Site visitors may also schedule reminders and sign up to receive seasonal influenza news. The Flu Clinic Locator will remain active as long as public flu immunization clinics are offered.

About the American Lung Association
Beginning our second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.”

For more information
For more information about the Faces of Influenza educational initiative, visit For information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.


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