Friday, January 9, 2015

Vaccination is a Work of Art

Vaccination is one of the most important issues we work on and champion in public health. This week we’re talking about nine confirmed cases of measles at Disneyland in California. We just had a measles scare locally in Philadelphia at the beloved Please Touch Museum. News that this year’s flu vaccine is less effective due to a mutated strain has started a public debate about the “worth” of the shot (spoiler alert: you should still get your flu shot!) And internationally, many health workers put their lives at risk every day to deliver vaccines that are so desperately needed.

Over the years, there have been many attempts to creatively and effectively communicate the value and safety of vaccines to key audiences (parents, health care workers, etc.) For example, efforts have included (1) incorporating themes from popular movies/TV shows (check out this Star Wars PSA from the 1970’s!), (2) engaging celebrities as champions, and (3) creating engaging documentaries. The newest effort comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their campaign, “The Art of Saving a Life” tells the story of the past success and future promise of immunization using the talents of more than 30 world-renowned photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. The goal of the campaign is to increase world-wide knowledge about the value of vaccines so that the Foundation (and partners) can build momentum and raise funds in their efforts to reach millions more with these life-saving inoculations.

A few of my favorite images in the campaign:

Campaign developers are hoping that the images will be widely shared and viewed, and inspire dialogue and donations. Since the campaign is targeted towards an international audience, I think primarily using images (vs. writing) will bridge countries, cultures, and literacy levels effectively. You can follow #vaccineswork on social media to participate in the discussion.

In terms of evaluating this campaign, I am assuming (and hoping) they will track:

  • Activity on social media that uses the campaign hashtag #vaccineswork. *One thing to note is that this hashtag is not unique to this campaign. So their staff may need to sort through what is directly sharing/discussing the campaign vs. general vaccine promoting communication to get a more accurate view of the hashtag’s usage.
  • How many people go on from their campaign website to visit the sites of partnering organizations listed on the bottom of each page (CDC, PATH, UNICEF, etc.) And how many of those people go on to take action on a partner site (i.e., make a donation, sign a petition, register to volunteer, etc.) 
  • Some type of qualitative feedback on the art pieces themselves. Overall, are these images more effective for communicating with an international audience? Were certain pieces more effective than others? If so, why were they more effective and with what audiences?

Tell me what you think:

  • What images/stories in the campaign do you find most interesting or inspiring?
  • What other outcomes besides those above should be evaluated?
  • What other campaigns have effectively used art work to communicate about a public health topic?

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