4 Strategies to Effectively Spread Public Health Awareness

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The first wealth is health”. That’s why public healthcare agencies must find effective ways to regularly promote individual and community well-being.

But, how can these agencies communicate in a way that informs, educates, and drives individuals to take action? Additionally, how can they use their communications to promote health equity? The answer: by running structured public health awareness campaigns.

With thoughtful awareness language and messaging, agencies can offer crucial information needed to foster a healthier, more resilient society. In this guide, we will unpack the steps needed to craft a comprehensive and compelling public health awareness campaign. 

1. Use data to segment your audience.

The first step in improving public health awareness is to understand who your audience is and how you can reach them most effectively. Cultural differences, demographics, and other factors can determine whether your healthcare messaging resonates with your target audience.

That said, it’s essential to develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to provide patient-centered messaging that respects diverse backgrounds and values. To do this, your public health agency can use data to segment your audience. With this data, you can:

  • Identify relevant topics: Dig deeper into population trends to craft relevant messages for your audience. For instance, an audience of young mothers should receive pediatric care messaging while an elderly audience might receive senior wellness check messaging.
  • Tailor messaging based on age: Data can be used to finalize specific advice based on age groups. For instance, many have found that text and video messaging resonates with millennials
  • Provide language and cultural context: Reference population data to ensure your messaging aligns with their preferred language. 
  • Offer geographic insight: You can also use data to reference disease hotspots based on geographic location. A region with lower vaccination rates, for example, can receive urgent messaging to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated. 

Consider partnering with healthcare organizations to find data that can provide additional campaign context. For example, providers using advanced analytic solutions can access insights into high-risk population groups. Analytic models like Arcadia’s healthcare dashboard can break down hospital metrics and other relevant social factors that are linked to disease.

2. Refine your communication.

Refine your communication to ensure that it will resonate with the right audience, provide the right information, and be easy to understand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides this guidance from its Health Communication Playbook to get started: 

  • Identify your key messages: Craft a short 1-2 sentence description that conveys exactly what you want your target audience to know. Each communication should only have one to three key messages to keep it to the point.
  • Include talking points: These points should describe complex issues or events. They are backed by research, simple to understand, and directly relate to the key messages.
  • Write clearly and concisely: Choose an active voice and replace medical jargon and scientific terms with inclusive language. Group information into headings so it's easier for the audience to digest.
  • Make your material visually appealing: If your communications are written, break up dense text and ensure your words have plenty of blank space. If you choose to use a video medium, make sure your background is clutter-free and the focus remains directly on the subject. 

To visualize these points, the CDC references the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)’s key message concerning an outbreak of Polycythemia Vera (PV) blood cancer in Eastern Pennsylvania: Protecting public health is ATSDR’s top priority.

ATSDR’s talking points include: 

  • ATSDR has been investigating PV in Eastern Pennsylvania since 2006.
  • ATSDR responded immediately when the Pennsylvania Department of

Health asked us to investigate PV in Eastern Pennsylvania.

  • ATSDR has secured grants and worked with experts to carry out the investigation.

These talking points are short and to the point as each one connects back to the key message that ATSDR is making meaningful steps to protect public health. 

3. Adopt an omnichannel communication approach.

To expand your reach, it’s necessary to explore several communication channels to provide useful public health updates. Double the Donation’s marketing guide recommends combining these channels to create a cohesive and consistent experience for your audience. 

Refer to your audience data for more details on which channels to prioritize. As a starting point, consider leveraging these channels:

  • Social media: Raise awareness about new, emerging annual health concerns and trends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can use these platforms to discuss daily health tips and share informative infographics. 
  • Email newsletters and text messaging: Encourage community members to sign up for email newsletters to receive the latest research updates and expert advice on topics most relevant to them. Invite them to sign up for text messaging updates such as flu shot reminders. 
  • Website: Include comprehensive resources for community members to find more information about disease management, prevention, and healthy lifestyle tips. Optimize your website for user experience with clear navigation and display. 

Update each channel consistently and continue to use clear, straightforward language. Consider directing followers to check out your website for more information on complex topics. 

4. Use video to highlight success stories.

Video storytelling is a captivating and effective way to get your message across. Video is a great medium to humanize your messaging and help your community better understand the benefits of following research-backed health guidance. It also acts as social proof to convince viewers to take the next step in taking responsibility for their personal health. Plus, recent studies have shown that most people prefer to watch video content over written text. 

Use video to:

  • Share success stories that highlight the positive outcomes of healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Explain new research that directly affects population health guidance.
  • Discuss new community health initiatives and programs.
  • Provide guidance for disease prevention.

Consider incorporating interactive elements into your videos that further engage your audience. Surveys, quizzes, and other interactive learning activities can be helpful strategies to educate your community. 

Medical public awareness campaigns are crucial to distribute important healthcare messages to large populations. When running a public health campaign, be sure to present topics as straightforwardly as possible. Scannable fact sheets, frequently asked questions, and helpful resources are all crucial to providing an optimal educational experience.

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