Health department billboards inappropriate

Perhaps you recently noticed the disturbing “Get it and Forget it” billboards promoting two methods of contraception. One was a picture of an IUD and the other was Nexplanon, which is an “etonogestrel implant” in the arm.

I met with a Personal Health Director at Health Dept. No. 4 about the billboards. I was told grant-funded billboards were part of Health Dept. No 4’s idea to promote family planning and that these billboards were specifically chosen by Health Dept. No. 4 staff as the way to convey their family planning message. I wrote several letters in opposition to these billboards and received a response from the Director of the Division of Maternal and Infant Health. Here is the response excerpt: “MDHHS supports and encourages local health departments to make decisions based on community needs and demographics and was not involved in the specific message of the billboards and/or other community outreach materials. Use of the funds for billboards promoting family planning services is allowable.”

I also researched information about the implant. The Merck Nexplanon pamphlet said: “1 in 10 women stopped using Nexplanon because of an unfavorable change in their bleeding pattern.” This sounds like a health hazard to me. Additionally, the message of “Get It and Forget It” implies sexual activity is casual and can be taken flippantly. There’s also no mention that these methods do anything to protect against STDs.

I believe those billboards sent exactly the wrong message to our community, especially our youth. I don’t know who approved spending the grant money in this way, but I believe that should be looked into to prevent such billboards ever being displayed again. We want to promote strong, responsible families making good choices with full knowledge of facts, not trivialize sexual activity in this manner.

Annette Ross

Alpena