Public health is an important issue. It can affect everything from the productivity of the workforce to the quality of living. Health awareness campaigns can help motivate, educate, and inform the public about various health issues.
Through a variety of creative and engaging methods, these campaigns provide information about particular causes and encourage the public to take action to improve their health and the health of others. Here are five successful health awareness campaigns.
National Smile Month
Any post talking about the top health awareness campaigns has to include the Oral Health Foundation's National Smile Month, which occurs between May and June every year and took place between the 15th of May and the 15th of June in 2017. Created in 1977, it is the world's largest campaign focused on raising awareness about the importance of oral health and it is also one of the UK's longest running health awareness campaigns. Beginning life as a UK-based week long campaign to focus on preventative care, National Smile Month has grown into a full month of oral health care attention and reaching out to over 60 million people in multiple countries around the world.
One of the primary messages of the campaign throughout its forty year history has been about preventative oral care; encouraging everyone to brush their teeth, avoid an excess of sugary foods, and make regular visits to your dentist. National Smile Month facilitates a great number of events across the month – from school visits by oral health professionals to sponsored events and competitions - meaning that there is a wide variety of ways to engage with the cause. The local community is therefore able to engage with a campaign in a way that suits them and meets their needs accordingly. This great flexibility, along with the passion behind the message and its longevity, makes National Smile Month a force to be reckoned with.
With so much variety within the campaign, the Oral Health Foundation's National Smile Month has facilitated a great number of projects across the UK. This has included giving resources to teachers in schools to make oral health part of the learning experience and providing assistance to staff in care homes to improve the oral hygiene of residents. There have also been numerous road shows, free check-ups, and training sessions devoted to educating the public about preventative care and improving oral health.
From one of the oldest health awareness campaigns to something newer, Alcohol Concern's Dry January officially began in 2012 with the aim of opening up conversations about the British drinking culture and bringing about a change in alcohol behaviour by encouraging people to take a month off from drinking. It grew from one person's experience giving up alcohol for a month in preparation for a half marathon to 5 million Brits - and even more participants around the world – choosing a month of sobriety to improve their relationship with booze.
For the month of January, Alcohol Concern offers online and email support to help participants work through the challenges of moving against the British drinking culture by choosing soft drinks instead of their usual tipple. The perks of Dry January, both from a health perspective and financially, are numerous, and the campaign has had a great amount of positive feedback. Along with providing some recovery time after the holiday indulgences of December, Alcohol Concern suggests that a month without alcohol can give the participant better sleep, increased energy, weight loss, and a lower likelihood of overindulgence after the Dry January challenge is over. The success of the Dry January health awareness campaign has lead to the creation of a Dry January & Beyond app, with over 36 thousand downloads globally, to give participants a clear idea of the impact giving up alcohol has had on their health and their wealth beyond the initial month challenge.
Though the campaign has only been running for the past five years, there are already some clear indications that Dry January really does fulfil its aim by helping participants change their behaviour in regards to alcohol consumption. Along with feedback from participants and social media praise, recent studies have also lauded the after effects of this health awareness campaign. An independent evaluation by the University of Sussex found that 72% of participants in their study had noticeably reduced levels of harmful drinking – meaning drinking above the recommended limits – six months after the month long challenge had ended. Another study, this time from the Royal Free Hospital in London, found that participation in Dry January by moderate drinkers showed improvements in sleep and concentration, along with other health benefits such as lower cholesterol, improved blood pressure, and a 40% reduction in their liver fat. Any health awareness campaign with such powerful results so early in its run definitely belongs in this list.
World Immunisation Week
Headed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Immunisation Week is a world-wide health awareness campaign that aims to build awareness and increase the immunisation rates of preventable diseases on a global scale. Established in 2012 as the beginning of part of the ten year Global Vaccine Action Plan – the “decade of vaccines” - World Immunisation Week occurs in the last week of April each year across the 194 member states of the World Health Organisation.
There is a different theme each year, with the World Immunisation Week 2017 campaign message being “#vaccineswork”. The focus of this year's theme revolved around showing the impact that vaccination has had on the world – a prime example being that the number of countries that are polio-endemic (meaning countries where polio occurs regularly) has fallen from 125 countries to only two in under thirty years. Through the World Immunisation Week campaign, the World Health Organisation hopes to highlight vaccination as a cost effective form of preventative healthcare and make deaths that could be avoided through immunisation less common.
Health Information Week
Top health awareness campaigns need access to accurate and important information to ensure that they are spreading the right message to their audience and the collaborative approach of the Health Information Week campaign makes sharing facts their mission. Beginning in only a few communities in 2005, the Health Information Week campaign has continued to spread across the country and seems set to keep growing bigger and better. NHS staff, local authorities, and volunteers have worked together to raise awareness about the health resources available to the public through events and informative displays. The aim of the campaign is to improve health and understanding through the provision of greater health resources, with the hope that this will result in patients that are better informed about their treatment options and more comfortable with making good choices to improve their well-being.
The flexibility of the Health Information Week campaign has allowed it to work according to the needs of the local area, and results from previous years that it has run have found that it facilitates further collaborations across sectors to benefit patients. They have also found that better provisions have been made for hard-to-reach communities in response to the health awareness campaign. Library registrations have risen following Health Information Week, increasing the engagement in well-being focused reading groups and improving the overall health understanding of the communities involved.
One You Couch to 5k
A collaboration between BBC Get Inspired and Public Health England's wider One You campaign, One You Couch to 5k focuses on motivating non-runners to get moving to improve their future health. With a nine week plan - structured by a downloadable app that lets you choose between BBC Radio DJS, comedians, and Olympic gold medalists to talk you through your running training – this health awareness campaign aims to get couch potatoes to work their way up to running five kilometers in half an hour.
While the concept of couch to 5k has been around for a number of years, the One You Couch to 5k campaign launched in 2016 to add a dash of fun to a beginner's running journey and to spur them on to a healthier lifestyle. With three runs a week for nine weeks (or longer if needed), the campaign's app builds up the stamina of the runner through a combination of walking and running until they are running more often than not and completing the promised five kilometres in half an hour. The wider One You campaign also offers other health advice to improve a person's overall well-being, such as ways to stop smoking, improve diet, and work towards better mental health.
The One You Couch to 5k encourages running as a form of fitness because of the health benefits associated with it. Regular running is thought to improve the heart and lung function, facilitate weight loss, and even improve bone density. It has also been shown to have great effects on mental well-being by increasing confidence and decreasing stress, making this one awareness campaign that is great for your overall health.
From teeth to tetanus, these health awareness campaigns use a variety of methods to engage with their audience and provide information to improve the overall well-being of the public. Through creativity and a wealth of information, they encourage everyone who takes part to take action and become more aware of their health.