Medicine trumps politics as Maccabi wins int’l PR award

Turkish Muslim headed judges committee; ‘With Star of David logo, we thought we had no chance,’ says health fund official.

Ido Harari (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ido Harari
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although the chairman of the judges committee was a fervent Turkish Muslim and the rotating president of the International Public Relations Association a Muslim from Indonesia – and the contest was held a few days after the Turkish flotilla imbroglio in May – Maccabi Health Services has been awarded first prize in the environmental protection category of IPRA’s international PR campaign competition.
The Golden World Award will be presented to the health fund and 19 winners in other categories at a ceremony in London on November 5.
The winning Israeli project was a campaign launched before Pessah in 2009 to collect medications beyond their expiry data at Maccabi community clinic branches around the country.
“We are very proud that in such a political constellation, we succeeded both on the professional and international level,” Ido Hadari, Maccabi’s director of communications and governmental affairs, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“We thought we had no chance – especially with a prominent Star of David in our logo,” Hadari said.
“More than 350 projects from 42 countries had been entered into the public relations campaign competition, among them Microsoft, Gilette, Proctor and Gamble and the state of Queensland in Australia. We were among five finalists in our category of environmental quality, and we won.”
In the 1990s, the Israeli organization called ELEM that assists disadvantaged and trouble youths received a prize in the IPRA competition for its “light up a building” campaign.
Maccabi was the first medical organization to initiate the collection of old medications and their burial – at its expense – at the Ramat Hovav safe dumping center in the Negev. Drugs that are thrown into the garbage bin and deposited in ordinary dumps can seep into the groundwater and damage health, Hadari said.
Clalit Health Services, the largest health fund, liked the idea and copied it this year from Maccabi, the second-largest health insurer, he said.
The idea for increasing the health fund’s involvement in community affairs came from Maccabi director-general Dr.
Ehud Kokia, while Dr. Nurit Friedman, its head of assessment and research, ran the collection project.
Without spending money on advertisements, Hadari was able to get dozens of media outlets interested in the story of collecting unused, outdated drugs, and it was widely publicized.
Information material in Hebrew for the general public, Hebrew for the haredi community, Arabic and Russian was distributed in clinics.
Hadari also organized a public survey beforehand, to find out whether Maccabi members knew tossing drugs into the garbage posed environmental and health dangers; most did not. But many were willing to bring the packets to the health fund’s clinics.
When Maccabi learned of the competition, it entered with a 1,000-word abstract, and when it learned that it was a finalist, a major presentation was sent in to the judges’ committee in Istanbul.
The sturdy green metal cabinets were affixed to the wall and designed so drug addicts could not pull the packages out from the slot at the top. In the past 16 months, about 200,000 packages with around 6 million pills have been collected, Hadari said. “It was a huge success.”
Inspired by the Maccabi campaign, Hadash MK Dov Henin has since initiated a private member’s bill to require pharmacies, hospitals and clinics to collect and safely dispose of expired drugs at Ramat Hovav.
“We collected over 15,000 liters of packages each month,” Hadari said. “We are happy that Clalit took up our initiative in its clinics and that it inspired an MK to present a bill to the Knesset.”