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PT and the Greater Good

Public Health Campaigns That Work

Published March 26, 2014 3:11 PM by Dean Metz

A few years back, I was reading Facebook posts like this by my female friends:

"I like it on the floor."

"I like it on the kitchen table."

"I like it on the sofa."

This was an idea to get people wondering what everyone was talking about as a way to build awareness for breast cancer. What the women were doing was answering the question of where they put their purse/handbag when they came home. Clever, but did it serve its purpose? It was amusing, it caught people's attention, but did it raise awareness of breast cancer? Maybe among women in on the joke, but it resulted in a simple, "Oh, that's nice," from most of the people I know. Ladies, help me out here.

Did any of you who participated also go to a website and learn more about screening, or the signs to look out for, or actually give money to a cancer research organization? I took a fair amount of flack because I told some women friends that I thought it was the worst public health campaign possible. Why? Because it got people to participate in a way that made no difference, except to make people feel like they did something. My fear is many people would then think, "I've already done something for breast cancer this year," when really all they did was update their status on social media. Burnout with no turnout.

Compare that to the recent trend in the UK of no-makeup selfies. It probably won't happen often that my blog links to an article from Adweek, but there's a first time for everything. The difference between this campaign and the annual Facebook campaign is that it raised more than £2 million ($3 million USD) for Cancer Research UK. People visited the website, even if they only did so to make their £3 donation. Money was raised, odds are good that people looked over at least one thing on the website, and the message got out there. To me, that's what a successful public health campaign looks like.

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About this Blog


    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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