The colorful, carefully detailed ad is hardly the sort associated with babies: a fetus curled up in an umbilical cord, suckling a grotesquely oversized bottle of malt liquor for nourishment, a tear squeezing out of one closed eye. "Her Birth Defects Came in 40 oz.," reads the ominous slogan across the bottom.
The photo assaults viewers rather than giving them the warm fuzzies, and that is exactly the effect Zola Jones is after. "We have a serious problem with alcohol, and it needs to be addressed seriously," said Jones, project director of Great Beginnings for Black Babies, a Crenshaw-based organization that provides prenatal care and information services. "It's not negative, it's provocative."
Last week, Jones and other Great Beginnings staffers announced the launching of their latest media campaign, this time aimed at reducing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome among the black population.
The hard-hitting ads--more than 4,000 of them--will go up next month all over Los Angeles County on billboards and buses, and in shopping malls and subway and rail stations. The warnings against drinking during pregnancy will also be disseminated in community lectures, forums, workshops, radio ads, health fairs and exhibits over the next year.
Jones said Great Beginnings generated some controversy with its last campaign, a graphic depiction of the effects of a mother's drug use on a newborn, and the new one is also controversial. At the unveiling, some health educators objected to the ad's implication that all African Americans swill the cheap, potent malt liquor.
"But the fact is that Olde English, Colt 45, these companies target blacks in their marketing," Jones said. "We have to target just as hard.
If Jones had her way, the word would be spread even further. A retired nurse for the county health department, Jones and a core staff of about six have worked tirelessly since 1990 to reduce the black infant mortality rate, which is high among blacks. (In 1991 in Los Angeles County, the infant mortality rate for blacks was 15 per 1,000 live births; for whites, 8.7; for Latinos, 6.7, and 4.9 for Asians/Pacific Islanders.)