Write Letters to the Editor: Early Nutrition
Letters to the Editor are timely, provocative and brief essays that express an opinion on an important issue, typically in response to a previous article in the newspaper.
They can be a powerful and cost-effective way to get your message out to your community and to policymakers. Most policymakers or their staff read Letters to the Editor as a way to track issues important to their constituents.
What makes for a good letter? Here are some do's:
- Have a hook, piggyback on an issue or pending legislation.
- Identify yourself. For example, "I am a mother as well as a teacher in the public school system."
- Be brief. 750 words is a good target for an op-ed. For a letter to the editor, 150 words.
- Plan your message. Choose just one.
- Avoid jargon.
- Check your facts.
- Use examples. Real life stories engage readers and can often make a point in far fewer words than a page of statistics.
- Make a specific recommendation or call to action.
- Include your name, address, a phone number where you can be reached, any appropriate organizational affiliation, and a one-sentence description of that organization. However, you do not have to be writing on behalf of an organization to get published.
Reaching the Media
Enter your zip code to find local and national media contacts.
Most editors will respond to you within a week. They should call you to confirm that you really wrote the piece before they publish it. They may want you to make some changes or they may make the changes and send it to you for approval.
Don't get discouraged if they don't print your article. Find out as much as you can about why your piece was not published.
(There's more below the media contact box.)
If you do get published, save the clipping and send it to policymakers to be sure they see it. Help me find and reach the right policymakers>>
Need a hook?
The first week of August is recognized by the World Health Organization and the United Nation's Children's Fund as World Breast-feeding Week.
Consider Including a Few Facts:
- The nation benefits overall when mothers breastfeed. Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented. The United States would also save $13 billion per year — medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
- Breast-fed babies are typically healthier, and because of that, parents miss fewer days at their jobs, improving productivity in the workforce. This, in turn, lowers health-care costs for employers.
- Breastfeeding also contributes to a more productive workforce since mothers miss less work to care for sick infants. Employer medical costs are also lower.
- Breastfeeding is also better for the environment. There is less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.
- Some research shows that breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and atopic dermatitis (a type of skin rash) in babies. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Breast-feeding benefits mothers by reducing their risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. It also helps a woman's body return to her pre-pregnancy state.
Nearly 80 percent of U.S. hospitals, breast-feeding infants are given formula when it's not medically necessary, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Breast-feeding is better for the environment because it creates less trash produced by formula cans and bottle supplies. Breast feeding is also readily available for the baby in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
The IRS now allows the cost of breast pumps to be considered a tax-deductible medical expense.
Letter to the editor: Breastfeeding is not a crime (Bozemand Daily Chronicle)
Breast Feeding and Allergies (New York Times)
The IRS Breastfeeding Decision Makes Sense (Phila. Post-Gazette)
More Tools to Reach Media: