Speak Right Up
I remember NPA’s activism in the early 1980s and can vividly picture sitting back to back with Leslie Kenney in our tiny cubicle of an office armed with a Selectric typewriter and a phone. In those days, before e-mail and the ability to communicate over the Internet, we did it all the hard way: with mass mailings of Xeroxed letters in hand-stamped envelopes, sorted by zip code, bundled into boxes and driven to the one local post office designated for USPS nonprofit bundling so that we could get a lower postage rate. In response to taking these measures, we would be grateful if we received even a few supportive phone calls. Such was the scene on the momentous morning we received a call from Jennifer Carter, a producer for Walt Disney Educational Media Company who later became the first woman to dive down to the Titanic in a submersible!
Jennifer was looking to us for fact checking and insights to help her produce a teaching video for children on the subject of head lice. We were obviously honored by receiving the call, but beyond that we were super happy that the script Jennifer had written was consistent with our goals. The teaching video wasn’t about head lice per se but about the opportunity the issue provided to teach children the importance of seeking help when they had a worry or a problem. The project included a theme song written by Al Kasha and Jennifer’s then-fiancé, the late Joel Hirschhorn. Both Al and Joel were Academy Award winners having written -- among other recognizable pieces – the theme song for the movie “The Poseidon Adventure”. The validation that came with being invited to collaborate on a project with Disney early in the NPA’s existence was highly motivating, not that we weren’t already hyper-focused on the tasks at hand.
NPA’s work has always been about the bigger picture: using the issue of head lice as an early opportunity to draw attention to the need for sound and consistent public health messages -- lessons that foster respect, community preparedness, communication and trust. As part of NPA’s wellness initiative to protect families from risky pesticide lice treatments, we want children to learn to be proactive: to reach out and speak to the adults in their lives when they are worried or need help, whether it’s about a concern as basic as itching,“ I think I may have head lice”, or any other problem.