Project Description

MDB developed an evidence-based brochure on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs for pregnant and breastfeeding women participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). About 500,000 copies of the handout will be printed in English and Spanish and distributed through WIC’s 1,900 local agencies nationwide.

WIC is a nutrition program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Staff working in local WIC agencies needed an easy-to-understand guide on substance abuse to hand to program participants that provides basic information and motivates behavioral change.

To develop the right content, our health communications staff reviewed the latest medical and social research, including other federal communications materials, related to breastfeeding, secondhand smoke, alcohol, over-the-counter medicines, and other substance use by pregnant women. We applied relevant communication theories, created an original concept and design, wrote copy, and selected compelling images to produce a brochure that will:

  • Educate WIC program participants (low-income pregnant and breast feeding women) about the risks of substance use while pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Encourage readers to quit using substances immediately and seek help if needed.

Major challenges were to strike the right balances between providing a broad overview and enough specific information, recognize that the audience’s knowledge and motivation varies from great to none, cover a wide range of substances in a short amount of space, signal that the women may range from having addictions to being occasional users, and clearly convey risks while remaining compassionate and positive.

The overall message focuses on the positive outcome of having a healthy baby. At the same time, it conveys a sense of urgency since it is risky for pregnant women to wait before stopping use of harmful substances. The brochure uses simple, direct language with plenty of white space, and its photos and graphics appropriately reflect the demographic profile of WIC participants.