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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Sesame Street and the Ad Council Launch National PSA to Protect Families from the Flu


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Department of Health & Human Services is joining the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, to launch a national public service advertisement (PSA) designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the flu this season. Sesame Workshop produced the television PSA, which features Secretary Sebelius and Sesame Street’s Elmo explaining the importance of healthy habits such as sneezing into the bend of your arm and staying home when you’re sick.

The PSA was unveiled this morning by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Northside Center for Child Development in New York City. The Ad Council will distribute the PSA nationwide next week and it will be supported in airtime donated by television stations. The spot is an extension of a campaign launched last year by HHS and the Ad Council to help Americans protect themselves from the seasonal flu.

“We’re thrilled that our friend Elmo has joined us again to spread the word about how to prevent the flu,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. "With help from Elmo, Rosita and our other favorites from Sesame Street, we helped teach a new generation of children the correct way to cough and other important prevention tips last year. We are excited about the opportunity to continue our partnership with Sesame Street and the Ad Council to share vital and important tips about staying healthy during flu season like washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve or a tissue and staying home if you’re sick.”

In the U.S., the flu season occurs from fall through early spring. The overall health impact of a flu season varies from year to year. However, on average, each year 5 - 20 percent of the U.S. population get the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications and deaths from flu-related causes range from 3,300 to 48,600. Although the World Health Organization declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the H1N1 flu virus is expected to circulate again this flu season, along with other seasonal flu viruses. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine includes protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus and other seasonal flu viruses.

The new PSA focuses on the importance of providing families and children with accurate information about how to practice healthy habits, highlighting proper hand-washing and simple everyday actions that lead to staying healthy and keeping germs away. Created by Sesame Workshop, the television PSA encourages audiences to visit to get more information on how to stay healthy. The PSAs are an extension of Sesame’s Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which helps young children and their caregivers establish an early foundation of healthy habits.

“Sesame Street’s Elmo can be a powerful messenger in delivering simple, yet compelling messages that teach children to wash their hands and sneeze into the bend of their elbow during flu season,” said Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, Sesame Workshop. “These vital prevention messages are part of a larger flu strategy and Sesame Workshop is proud to be partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Ad Council to generate awareness on how kids and families can lead healthier lives.”

“We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services for this critical campaign that will educate parents and children about how to protect themselves this flu season,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are also grateful to Sesame Workshop for providing their resources and talent for the PSA.”

The Ad Council has been partnering with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to develop PSA campaigns that address critical health issues since the 1950s. Their successful collaborations have included public service messages about the polio epidemic, drug abuse and, more recently, obesity prevention.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. The department includes more than 300 programs, covering a wide spectrum of activities, including medical and social science research, preventing outbreak of infectious disease, including immunization services, assuring food and drug safety, welfare, and Medicare and Medicaid.

Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children’s television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 140 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at

The Advertising Council
The Ad Council is a non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer talent from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. Having produced literally thousands of PSA campaigns addressing the most pressing social issues of the day, the Ad Council has effected, and continues to effect, tremendous positive change by raising awareness, inspiring action, and saving lives. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit

Northside Center for Child Development
Northside Center for Child Development provides Head Start, Early Head Start, mental health and education services to children and families living in Harlem and the Bronx. Northside was founded in 1946 by visionary psychologists Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, whose groundbreaking doll studies influenced the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, which legally desegregated public schools. Northside intervenes early in the lives of children with wide-ranging child development programs. By taking a comprehensive, holistic and strength- based approach, Northside transforms the lives of over 2,700 children and families each year and gives them the tools they need to recognize their worth and achieve their goals. To learn more, visit


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