Successful Public Health Campaigns
Heidi Zwart
successful public health campaigns

With the onset of a pandemic, initiatives to prevent the spread of disease have risen to the top of the priority list for health educators. Developing a successful public health campaign to change both the behaviors and thoughts of people across the world is no small feat but one that is crucial to prevent illness and save lives. 

The CDC recently launched a handwashing campaign titled Life is Better with Clean Hands. The public health campaign includes information for individuals, schools, and companies to support the frequency and quality of hand washing. Downloadable printed materials, digital materials, and even social media campaigns are available through their website as part of the effort to support better health habits. 

In addition, the CDC deemed October 15, “National Handwashing Day” to garner more social support for the campaign. While it will take time to determine how successful this public health campaign is (or was), it’s an example of the need for ongoing public health interventions that are both preventative and responsive to health crises around the world. 

How do you create mass change in the behaviors of the public? No matter what the issue, successful public health campaigns address this question by following a repeatable three-step process: planning, development, and education. 


During the planning phase of a successful public health campaign, it’s important to evaluate the problem. Determining whether there is actually a need for change or not is key to moving forward. Steps in this phase include researching the severity of the problem by examining the existing health data, exploring the success or failure of previous interventions, and considering whether an intervention may be successful, either by repeating a previous campaign or revising it.


Once the planning phase is complete, step two turns ideas into action. After determining a course of intervention, the development phase includes identifying objectives and the desired outcome of the campaign. At the heart of every successful public health campaign is the goal of changing what people think or how they act. With this objective in mind, messaging and marketing can be crafted. Careful attention is given to the audience to understand not only who they are but why they value certain things or think the way they do. 


A necessary part of every public health campaign is evaluating its effectiveness. Knowing if behaviors or thoughts were changed is crucial to creating successful public health campaigns in the future. Additional funding is also at stake as campaign success determines whether or not they will continue to fund it or whether financial support will be withdrawn. The CDC provides some examples of some of their successful public health campaigns for reference. 

Having a planning, development, evaluation framework to support the development of successful public health campaigns is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the world at large. As we continue to make our way individually and corporately through our current health crises, we can all do our part to change our behaviors and mindset for the good of ourselves and others around us.    

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