The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) spent around $16.8 million on advertising in fiscal year 2023 compared to $2.3 million in fiscal year 2018.
Arrol Sheehan, an ADPH spokesperson, said, "These funds help ensure that citizens in each of the 67 counties throughout the state are well-informed about the various programs and services that the department provides, as well as providing important information that relates to their health."
"The mission of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is to promote, protect, and improve Alabama's health. ADPH is committed to enhancing the well-being of citizens throughout the state by providing essential public health services and programs. The federally funded grants on which many of our programs operate include funding for awareness and outreach campaigns," Sheehan said.
According to the Alabama Department of Finance, advertising spending at the ADPH over the last six fiscal years was:
Although ADPH emphasized other non-Covid programs the funding supports. Their biggest expenditure in 2023 was to Copperwing Design, a creative and marketing company based out of Montgomery, for approximately $2.6 million. Copperwing developed the "Alabama Unites Against COVID" multimedia campaign, according to its website. Sheehan told 1819 News last year, "During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant federal funding has been provided for ongoing education."
State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) told 1819 News some of the ADPH outreach was false advertising.
"I don't know a single person who has taken a covid booster. There may be some out there, but people that I know I don't know a single person that has gotten one. The ad that they have that is probably worthwhile is the one that says, 'Don't let your children get behind on all their routine vaccinations.' You know, that's probably true. The tried and true vaccines that have been used for years on children…they still need to get those," Stutts said. "Continuing to push the agenda of everybody needs to get the covid booster is just not true. All the things we were told about the covid vaccine, 'You get the vaccine, you can't get it. If you get the vaccine, you can't spread it.' Now we know that that is not true. To continue pushing that agenda and using tax dollars to do it, is just not right."
For 2023, the $16.8 million spent on advertising by ADPH was $14.6 federally funded and the remainder funded by the state, county and local governments.
"The federal government is spending money that we don't have and driving up inflation and I get, 'Well, it's federal dollars and it's going to go somewhere.' At some point, somebody has just got to say, 'No, we're not going to do that.' We don't need your $14 million for advertising Covid vaccines. At some point you've got to just turn that money down and say truth matters and we're not going to continue false advertising," Stutts said. "I don't know of anybody that has gotten (the booster). I took the initial vaccine. They were saying healthcare workers needed to get it and all this very early on. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have taken them. I haven't had any (patients) ask me about it in over a year. When it was a thing that was going on and pregnant people (would ask), I told them it's up to you. It's available. They'd say, 'Well, if your wife was pregnant would you tell her to get it?' and I said, 'No, I wouldn't.' They'd say, 'Well, I'm not going to take it either then.' I did not push it at all on pregnant people, but I had a few patients who took it. The vast majority didn't."
ADPH's Sheehan mentioned other non-Covid advertising and outreach the department does.
"The programs at our department that spend funding on advertising campaigns to spread awareness about their services include the ALL Kids Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides low-cost healthcare for eligible children; the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women, breast-feeding women, women who had a baby within the past six months, infants, and children under the age of five; the STD Prevention and Control Program that works to identify populations at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections in order to reduce transmission to others and the development of related complications, including congenital syphilis; the Bureau of Environmental Services that ensures the safety of Alabamians by regulating food, milk, lodging, body art, seafood, soil, and onsite sewage disposal, indoor air quality/lead, and solid waste; the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program; Newborn Screening for early identification and treatment of infants with certain genetic or metabolic conditions; the Family Planning Program which promotes the well being of families, responsible behavior, and healthy mothers and babies with a goal to prevent unintended pregnancies through education and contraceptive services; and the Vaccines for Children Program that was created to remove vaccine costs as a barrier in serving the immunization needs of our youngest citizens. ADPH spreads awareness through advertising and outreach for these and many other health needs," Sheehan said.
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