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An insight-led campaign to drive a public health initiative
The context and challenge
An estimated 70,000 people in England could be living with the virus hepatitis C… without even knowing it.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, meaning it can be passed on through traces of blood. The virus is often symptomless for years and in some cases, decades. If left untreated, the virus can lead to life-threatening conditions like liver cancer or liver failure.
The NHS is committed to eliminating hepatitis C as a major public health issue in England, ahead of the World Health Organisation’s goal to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public threat by 2030. Whilst significant progress has been made to reduce the number of people with hepatitis C, more needs to be done to prevent new infections.
The NHS launched an online hepatitis C testing service with our client, remote testing provider, Preventx. The service allows people to order a free hepatitis C test kit to their homes, without needing to visit an in-person clinic.
We were tasked with raising awareness of this new service and increasing online test orders, to find undiagnosed cases and get people onto treatment pathways – a challenge made more difficult by low levels of public awareness around hepatitis C.
To achieve our strategic goals, the campaign needed to promote the service and make people aware that they might be at risk. We designed our campaign speak to as broad an audience as possible. We focused on people who may have caught hepatitis C via tattoos, piercings and medical procedures overseas - a high-risk audience that hadn’t been targeted before.
We ensured our campaign was insight-led by working with NHS England to develop the first-ever estimate of the number of people that acquired hepatitis C abroad via medical tourism, tattoos or piercings. We distilled our data into the key insight that ‘thousands of people in England may have undiagnosed hepatitis C picked up from tattoos, piercings or trips abroad’.
This was supplemented with a UK-wide survey emphasising the low levels of awareness of hepatitis C:
67% have limited or no knowledge about hepatitis C
70% did not realise that the virus is spread via blood-to-blood contact
76% did not realise it can be contracted from having a tattoo or piercing
We used this insight to create media and communications materials that made this complex public health message applicable and understandable to a wide audience. Messaging focused on the effectiveness of treatment to encourage people to take action and get tested.
We brought our story to life with the support of a patient who had received an unexpected hepatitis C diagnosis 30 years after receiving a blood transfusion abroad. We also engaged NHS sexual health consultants and charities to provide expert comment on the findings.
To supplement our media activity we engaged a famous ‘tattoo fixer’ with a large social media following who posted about the service to her audience.
Developed unique insight into a risk factor of the disease
138 pieces of media coverage
Reached 244,970 social media accounts
35% increase in test orders
Our campaign launched on 31st August to capitalise on media interest around people returning from summer holidays.
It had significant national reach, achieving 138 pieces of media coverage, including 86 pieces of broadcast coverage, with online articles read an estimated 789k times.
Our social media influencer partnership resulted in 256,336 total impressions and reached 244,970 accounts.
September was a record month for test orders, resulting in a 35% increase in test orders.
This demonstrates the impact targeted, multi-channel campaigns based on insight can have in building awareness of risk, driving action and supporting vital public health initiatives.
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