Published 1/1/2007
Jennie McKee

Communication, bone health, ATV safety focus of PSAs

A doctor and patient with their lips bandaged shut…a cute gymnast who’s “almost past her prime”…a banged-up all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in the emergency department…these images and others focusing on musculoskeletal health are all part of the AAOS’ 2007 multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign, now in full swing across the country.

“These PSAs are designed to raise the public’s awareness of important health issues related to the musculoskeletal system and to educate them about those issues,” says Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD, chair of the AAOS’ Public Relations Oversight Group. “We also want to portray the AAOS as a reliable, knowledgeable source for information and orthopaedic surgeons as the best-trained professionals to provide care to patients with musculoskeletal ailments.”

The campaign delivers vital information about how individuals can protect and improve their musculoskeletal health throughout their lifetimes. The issues addressed include knee health, doctor-patient communication, bone health in adolescents, injuries from riding ATVs, and falls in older adults.

Partners in development

A new partner for the AAOS public service campaign is Milk Matters, a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Several orthopaedic specialty societies are participating in the program, including the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) and The Knee Society. As in previous years, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is also cobranding an ad.

The PSA materials, which will garner from $5 million to $8 million in free airtime and space, include five print ads that available as postcards and posters in English and Spanish, three television spots and a total of 25 radio ads. Orthopaedic specialty societies collaborated in developing 16 different 60-second radio ads; the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons worked with AAOS to develop six 90-second radio ads.

Making knees last a lifetime

Regular exercise and activity are essential for protecting and strengthening the knee joint, as well as for preventing weight gain and muscle loss that can contribute to knee degeneration. Because “you only get two knees,” to make them last a lifetime, you must use them, says the ad developed by the AAOS and The Knee Society.

Gerard Engh, MD, president of The Knee Society, notes that the ad encourages people to take active steps to avoid developing knee problems.

“The message is ‘Your muscles need exercise, your joints need exercise and cartilage is also nourished by exercise,’” says Dr. Engh. “When I see people in their late fifties or early sixties who are starting to have a little bit of knee discomfort, I tell them that their joints aren’t getting enough exercise and they need to turn that around with regular exercise for all their joints—their knees, in particular—because they are weightbearing joints and they are the ones that deteriorate most commonly.”

The doctor-patient partnership

“Talk much with your doctor?” asks the print ad that focuses on patient-centered care. The ad stresses that patients should come to their appointments prepared—with their questions, current medications and allergies written down—and ready to provide a candid assessment of their health.

Doctors must do their part by being good listeners and by communicating with their patients in an easy-to-understand way, without using medical jargon. By following these guidelines, doctors and patients can assess treatment options more clearly and are better able to make shared decisions as partners.

Mirroring that message is the “Osteophyte” television ad on patient-centered care (available in 15-, 30-, and 60-second versions). A female patient and a male physician are in counseling to improve their ability to communicate with one other. The television ad emphasizes the critical role that listening and sharing information play in improving health outcomes.

“The Academy supports the patient-centered care initiative,” says Frank B. Kelly, MD, chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet. “Communication is a critical aspect of patient-centered care, as this PSA demonstrates.”

Building the bone bank

The print ads developed with Milk Matters explain how critical it is for young people ages 11 to 15 to engage in weightbearing exercise and consume a diet rich in calcium to build their “bone bank” early in life. The print ad juxtaposes a smiling, healthy-looking girl with a startling headline that proclaims “Almost past her prime,” or, in Spanish, “Casi pasada la flor de la vida.” It emphasizes that adolescence is the only time people can build strong bones that will stay stronger into adulthood and beyond.

According to Dr. Kelly, this PSA can educate young people and their parents about the dangers of neglecting bone health.

“This ad explains the importance of staying active and eating a proper diet, particularly for children. If teenagers don’t have a proper intake of calcium and if they don’t use their bones with regular exercise, they will be more prone to fractures and other bone and joint problems as adults,” says Dr. Kelly.

ATV safety

“Over the river and through the woods to the trauma center we go,” warns the print PSA on ATV safety, which depicts a muddy, damaged ATV in an operating room with three stern trauma surgeons standing over it. “The image combines a lot of messages: getting on an ATV is often not a ride to grandmother’s house; it’s a ride to the hospital, and often a ride to have surgery,” says Craig S. Roberts, MD, chair of the OTA’s Public Relations Committee.

The print and radio ads focus on the dangers of children using ATVs because many young thrill-seekers ride ATVs for recreation. The ad, which was developed with the OTA, notes that ATVs are not toys; approximately 136,000 ATV-related injuries were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices in 2004. The copy urges, “If you must ride an ATV, use your head—the right way.”

Keeping seniors on their feet

Because older bones break more easily, falling injuries for seniors can be traumatic. The ad developed by the AAOS and NATA depicts an older woman in workout clothes balancing precariously on a tightrope, and warns “Don’t let gravity be your downfall.”

According to Dr. DiNubile, fall and injury prevention education is crucial, particularly as baby boomers age. “Falls can be devastating and life-altering, especially for the elderly,” says Dr. DiNubile. “Exercising regularly is a very important part of fall and injury prevention; doing simple exercises to improve balance can reduce the risk of falls.”


The AAOS, which has won more than 40 national and international awards for it public service campaigns, will distribute the 2007 PSA materials nationally to 1,500 television/cable outlets, 3,500 radio outlets, and 7,000 print outlets. Large, backlit posters will be displayed in 200 airports across the country. The AAOS is also partnering with all 51 state orthopaedic societies (including Washington, D.C.) to increase the visibility of the television ads.