By Lindsay Goodman                                                                    December 11, 2018


Public health campaigns have the potential to improve lives and communities. These campaigns aim to change the way people think about healthy behaviors, while simultaneously providing the resources to accomplish the intended behavior change. Public health campaigns are most successful when the campaign aligns with community partner strategies to achieve their goals as well. Partnerships are strategic when they provide the campaign with means and methods for advancing the campaign’s mission. Public health campaigns can achieve greater, more sustainable outcomes when they work with strategic partners to reach their goals.


How do strategic partnerships impact the outcomes of a public health campaign?


  • Partnerships Increase Multi-Sector Collaboration

Partnerships provide opportunities for multi-sector collaboration. By engaging partners outside of your field, you are providing the opportunity for other sectors to understand the role they play in helping to achieve your mission.  Cross-sector stakeholder engagement increases the number of advocates in the community who understand your mission and are working to help you achieve your goal. Private, non-profit and government organizations in the community may not always immediately understand the role they play in your work. However, gaining buy-in from unlikely community partners outside of your line of work allows you to have a more well-rounded and sustainable impact.


The Harvard School of Public Health’s Designated Driver campaign illustrates how partnerships allow for multi-sector collaboration. The goal of the campaign was to prevent drunk driving in the United States. The campaign partnered with ABC, CBS, and NBC to air frequent PSAs during prime-time television. They also had the support of the alcohol industry in their efforts. The Designated Driver campaign broke through the health sector and reached the entertainment and food and beverage industry. This created a national understanding of the goals of the campaign, and as a result, the term “designated driver” became a household term in the United States and appeared in the 1991 Miriam Webster Dictionary.


  • Partnerships Broaden Reach

Community partnerships expand the reach of your public health campaign’s message to segments of your audience you might otherwise have difficulty reaching. Members of the target audience who may not otherwise see your campaign likely interact with other private, non-profit, and government organizations in your community. Partners of your organization will share your message with their audiences and therefore increase the number of lives your work impacts.


Truth Campaign, a public health campaign aiming to eliminate tobacco use among young adults in the United States, effectively leverages partnerships to broaden the reach of their efforts. The campaign works with corporations and organizations to promote Truth Campaign messages through their products, policies, and programs. This inspires products that resonate with the campaign’s intended audience such as Truth branded skateboards, T-shirts, and hats. A 2017 report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that teens who are more favorable towards the Truth brand are less likely to be smokers. Additionally, for teens that currently smoke, they are twice as likely to express intentions to quit in the next year.


  • Partnerships Achieve Shared Objectives

Partnerships are a bidirectional relationship that provide opportunities to collaborate on shared objectives. Establishing partnerships allows you to learn how one organization’s strengths can benefit the other and vice versa. Sustaining this relationship over time increases the impact because organizations can rely on each other for support as future opportunities arise.


The VERB Campaign aimed to increase and maintain physical activity among tweens (9-13-year-olds) in the United States and partnered with schools and community youth organizations nationwide. The partners had direct access to the intended audience and promoted the VERB brand. These partner organizations also benefitted, because the schools and youth organizations reaped the benefits of having healthier, more active students in their classes and programs.


Partnerships can be a criticl tool in improving lives and communities because they increase the impact of a public health campaign.


At Powell Strategies, we have the knowledge required to build meaningful cross-sector partnerships to maximize the effectiveness of public health campaigns. We are prepared to help your organization’s work have a sustainable impact on the community.