By Joelle Ballew                                                                                        March 26, 2019


Public health campaigns are a proven means to promote healthy behavior change. However, public health campaigns that are not firmly rooted in data are less likely to produce successful outcomes. Data has the power to enrich campaigns to be more impactful. More often than not, people only think about data during the final evaluation of a program. At Powell Strategies, we know that data guides truly successful public health campaigns from start to finish.


Data can help you:

Refine Your Key Message

The early 2000 anti-smoking Truth Campaign was wildly successful in reducing the number of young smokers by nearly 25%. The success was largely due to their ability to mimic big tobacco’s marketing strategy to cultivate a rebellious, independent brand that appealed to teens of that time. When relaunching their program in 2014, Truth did not simply reuse their initial messaging techniques; instead, they started with the data. Because the prevalence of smoking among teens dropped to 8%, their previous messaging would not work. Instead, they pivoted their messages to appeal to social norms, an increasingly important attribute for an increasingly socially connected generation.

Define Your Target Audience

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) currently identifies Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as a public health priority. According to HHS data, 700,000 lives were lost to HIV since 1981. Despite a reduction in overall incidence, progress stalls and without stronger interventions another 400,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed within the next 10 years. To combat this possibility, HHS began a public health campaign to end HIV. The first phase of the initiative is focused on reducing all new diagnoses by 75% in five years. When data uncovered that 50% of new HIV infections were clustered in a specific number of counties, they decided the first step was to focus solely on these high incidence geographies. Data allowed HHS to narrow down its target audience to specific locations and demographics that would create the most impact.

Reach Your Target Audience
In an effort to curb the high rates of breast cancer among minorities, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) created a program to provide free mammograms for uninsured women 40 years and older. Despite efforts to market the program uninsured African American women who are more likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer were not utilizing the free service. To remedy the situation, CDPH hired a data mining company to project trends among this high-risk target audience. The company used data mining to discover geographical clusters of uninsured African American women over 40 and employed targeted marketing to these specific locations. As a result of their data-driven targeted outreach, the number of free mammograms provided by the program nearly tripled in one month.

Implement Your Program (and adjust accordingly)
Because you must collect information and data if you plan to show any type of impact, it is important to clearly define your program objectives before you start the program to ensure you are collecting the right data. Process evaluation is the collection and analysis of preliminary data during campaign implementation. This information can help guide any necessary program adjustments to reach your ultimate goal. Say for example your objective is to increase the use of long acting contraceptives among adolescents, and one of your strategies is to increase awareness of efficacy through various social media channels. Process evaluation can provide real-time visibility into a number of variables including sentiment analysis and, perhaps even more importantly, the ability to modify or remove posts that elicit unfavorable sentiments. Data collected during process evaluation allows you to reexamine your initial implementation plans and adjust as necessary to produce the best possible outcomes.


At Powell Strategies, we know data plays a part in every step of successful public health campaigns. We also know data is most impactful when you do something with it. Our team has broad expertise in the public health communications field and is fully equipped to guide your company to data-driven success.