The Ohio CMV Advocacy Project

The Ohio CMV Advocacy Project

In March of this year, National CMV launched its public health awareness mini grant program with a pilot program in Ohio. The overall purpose of the mini grant program is to deliver education about congenital CMV to women of childbearing age through strategic partnerships, public health initiatives, and grassroots advocacy efforts. The pilot program included an award amount of $5,000, following a tactical proposal that would increase congenital CMV awareness in the United States. 

We selected Ohio to pilot this effort, and specifically Columbus, for the following reasons: 1) to align with our digital advertising activities from Q4 2017-Q1 2018 in an effort to educate women of childbearing age, and their families and friends, through multiple touchpoints online; 2) because we had on-the-ground parent advocates who are working towards legislative efforts and are extremely dialed into the community spreading the word about the importance of both prevention and newborn screening; and 3) because there was an established partnership between these active parents and Ohio Hands & Voices.

In May, National CMV awarded the public health awareness mini grant pilot to The Ohio CMV Advocacy Project. We’d like to share their experience in hopes of inspiring others to begin advocating for CMV awareness, on behalf of and in partnership with National CMV, in their state.  

The Ohio CMV Advocacy Project's story: 

We are honored to receive the pilot NCMVF mini-grant award and to share our story of starting The Ohio CMV Advocacy Project or OCAP.  Teresa is a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse and Heather is an educator and mother of Ethan, who was born with congenital CMV. Kristen from the National CMV Foundation knew we both lived in Ohio and connected us. We had both been trying to start CMV awareness programs on our own, but once we connected, we hit the ground running. When you have a partner who is willing and engaged, you are twice as powerful and motivated!
Here’s the thing, you can launch an awareness campaign with little to no experience as long as you have enthusiasm and dedication. We have been doing grassroots awareness and education in Ohio for a couple of years, but without representing an official organization. Once we learned about the National CMV mini grant program, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to gain funding for our efforts in Ohio.  In order to qualify for the requirements of the mini grant program, we needed to find a fiscal agent to handle financial aspects of receiving a grant, so we began to think about the relationships we had built over the years and Ohio Hands & Voices came to mind. We admired their work and professionalism, so we asked if they would be willing to partner with us, and within days they were on board.   

To get the most bang for our buck, we chose a billboard and paper flyer campaign. The billboard company was very enthusiastic to help us. Teresa cold called a company, gave a quick summary of CMV and our role with OCAP, and the sales representative immediately started making plans to get us the best rate for our campaign. They were very interested in helping such a good cause and we were thrilled to establish a great partnership. We currently have a billboard running in a targeted demographic area and will have two more billboards to follow over the next several months. Ohio web traffic to the National CMV Foundation website can be tracked and used as an evaluation tool for our report.
Our grant also proposes an initiative to provide CMV prevention education to childcare workers and will look to leaders in other states (like Lisa Saunders in Connecticut) as mentors. We know others have done great work in these areas, and are willing to share their expertise, and we are grateful we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We are also interested in bringing awareness to Ohio legislators, and have been meeting with our representatives to educate them about CMV. We successfully passed a CMV Awareness Month bill earlier this year and are ready to keep the momentum going. We plan to continue the conversation about screening and education with state legislators, and we look forward to what the future brings.
Every conversation, every meeting, and all the brainstorming sessions we have had over the phone throughout the last two years have led us to this moment and we cannot wait to see what’s in store for us next.  We also can’t wait to see what YOU do next, because if you are reading this right now, that means you’re up to something good! Keep moving forward!

- Authored by Teresa Bowman and Heather Innis 

The public health awareness mini grant application cycle for 2018 recently closed, but assuming we sustain funding from public contributions, we will reopen again in 2019. Check back for details.

Interested in learning more about how you can become an advocate for National CMV in your area? Email to learn more.