In this series of articles, our medical students will discuss a range of topics from medical ethics to the NHS to public health to medical conditions to clinical governance
Public health campaigns involve strategically providing the public with information that can help them lead a healthier life through resisting imminent health threats or encouraging behavioural changes. Depending on the target audience, objectives and the budget, a wide range of communication channels, including television, radio, press, cinema, are used to promote the campaign.
Prevention is Better than the Cure
Educating the public is an important part of aiding prevention of disease. If people are aware of what causes disease, such as smoking causing lung cancer, then they are prompted to think about their current lifestyle. It gives the public the opportunity to make informed decisions about their behaviour and prompts change to improve their quality of life. Furthermore, in an over-stretched and underfunded NHS, prevention of diseases is a way that NHS resources can be saved.
Recent Public Health Campaigns
As well as having a role in disease prevention, public health campaigns can raise awareness of current disease and prompt the public to seek necessary treatment. The 2011 Act FAST campaign is an example of this. The campaign, which educated the public on the signs of a stroke and the benefits of calling 999 promptly, is claimed to have saved thousands from serious disability. Educating the public through these campaigns therefore has the potential to greatly impact their quality of life.
STAY HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES ~ Matt Hancock
Some examples of recent Public Health England campaigns;
COVID-19 - STAY HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES
Hygiene - Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
Mental health - Every mind matters
Pharmacy advice - Help Us, Help You - Get It Seen To
Flu - Help Us, Help You - Stay Well this Winter
Smoking - Stoptober
Exercise & Healthy Eating - Change4Life
Cancer - Be Clear on Cancer : "Blood in pee?", "Blood in poo?", "Noticed a change to your skin?
If you get out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, tell your doctor ~ NHS
It is important to note that public health campaigns are not applicable to all types of disease. For example, some forms of cancer cannot be prevented through lifestyle changes (but they can reduce the chances). Campaigns and the advertisement involved are also costly, ideally they should equate to less than that saved in NHS resources from disease prevention further down the line. When assessing the effectiveness of the campaign, the cost of the campaign compared to the benefit to the population should be considered.
Top Tips for the Interview
To be prepared for discussion of public health campaigns at an interview, you can look at specific statistics for an example campaign to critically analyse and form an opinion on the benefit of the campaign to the population. For example, Stoptober, which launched in 2012, has evaluations for each year on the Public Health England Government website. The aim of this campaign is to inspire as many smokers as possible to quit and maintain it for at least 28 days, which is the time frame where smokers are 5 times more likely to quit for good. The 2018 Stoptober campaign was seen to be a success, as 18% of smokers made a campaign-related quit attempt with support. However, the 2018 evaluation has also shown that there remains a sizeable proportion of smokers (41%) who would still likely use willpower alone, opposed to the campaign, if they were to make a quit attempt.
Impact of UK Fast Stroke Awareness - BMC Public Health