Oral Health: Campaigns & Promotions

Background on Campaigns & Promotions


expandWhat are campaigns and promotions strategies?

collapseWhat are campaigns and promotions strategies?

  • Intervention tools used to increase awareness and knowledge about oral diseases and conditions and to promote oral health behaviors in communities.  
  • Oral health behaviors include brushing teeth, using fluoride, flossing, visiting the dentist regularly, avoiding tobacco, minimizing use of sugar and alcohol, receiving oral cancer screening and using protective head and mouth gear during athletic events.  
  • Campaigns and promotions use television and radio advertisements, newspapers, posters, billboards, brochures, clothing, stickers, and a number of other communication channels to distribute intervention messages. Many of these campaigns use well-known public figures, such as sports figures, to convey their message. One of the most important lessons learned from previous work is the importance of using consistent messages across a variety of communication channels (e.g., print, television, radio).
  • Using specific oral health messages, campaigns and promotions can:
    • increase awareness of potential health risks (e.g., oral cancer, cavities, periodontal disease, gum disease)
    • highlight the association with other health conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AID and other immune system disorders)
    • promote behavior changes to reduce the risk of oral diseases and conditions (e.g., brushing and flossing)
    • improve knowledge and skills related to benefits and challenges of proper dental care habits (e.g., visiting dentist on a regular basis)
    • change community norms (e.g., wearing protective head and mouth gear, avoiding tobacco use, reducing sugar and alcohol intake)

expandHow do campaigns and promotions impact oral health related behaviors?

collapseHow do campaigns and promotions impact oral health related behaviors?

  • Campaigns and promotions, when used alone, are effective in creating community awareness about the importance of oral health promotion to overall health and quality of life. Increasing knowledge and awareness is often the first step to supporting behavior change. Therefore, this intervention strategy may be particularly useful in helping individuals become ready to change their behaviors.
  • In order to increase potential for behavior change, campaigns and promotions are often combined with other intervention strategies.

expandWhat are mass media campaigns and how can I use them in my oral health intervention?

collapseWhat are mass media campaigns and how can I use them in my oral health intervention?

  • Oral health campaigns and promotions include mass media campaigns, which translate what are often complicated oral health messages into specific, easily understood messages. These intervention tools are designed to increase knowledge and awareness about the relationship between dental care habits and health. Messages may include how dental care can improve appearance or the importance of reducing sugar, alcohol and tobacco use to avoid oral cancer and damage to the teeth. One of the most important lessons learned from previous work is the importance of using consistent messages across a variety of media channels.
  • One of the strengths of mass media campaigns is their ability to reach and educate large numbers of individuals about oral health.  If, for example, a mass media campaign in a large metropolitan area addresses 500,000 individuals and successfully increases regularity of brushing and flossing in 3% of the population, then the campaign has impacted the health of 15,000 individuals. 
  • Additionally, mass media campaigns can minimize staff time once the campaign is up and running because individuals independently read, watch, or listen to the messages.  They can also be relatively less expensive per person if the intervention is targeting a large community. Reaching this many people through other intervention strategies may require more time and funding that is often unavailable.  Finally, the messages and materials have the ability to be reused or updated for long-term efforts.
  • Alternatively, mass media campaigns (particularly television advertisements) can be very expensive to create and maintain and may seem impersonal to individuals in need of social support.  In addition, these campaigns are difficult to evaluate in terms of measuring how many individuals actually received or read the messages, whether individuals changed behavior as a result of the mass media campaign, and whether the behavior change is sustained over time.

expandWhat should I consider when developing messages for my oral health intervention?

collapseWhat should I consider when developing messages for my oral health intervention?

  • The duration of campaigns and promotions influence their effectiveness in changing oral health behaviors. Small-scale campaigns with specific messages tailored to population subgroups are more effective than larger campaigns among these groups but have lower overall population impact.  Likewise, longer, more intensive campaigns featuring more frequent messages through a variety of communication channels are more effective in changing behavior as well as maintaining behavior change over time but are far more complex and costly.
  • Messages and communication channels may differ depending on the population of interest.  Campaigns and promotions may be intended for an entire community or they can be targeted to meet the needs or interests of a particular group. For example, the message may be geared toward mothers (e.g., reducing child’s sugar intake, using a cup instead of a bottle) and provided in a brochure at child-related facilities. Alternately, messages may be conveyed in different languages and address cultural norms in different communities (e.g., Spanish, Vietnamese).
  • Messages are often most effective if they are geared toward specific changes in knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about oral health that are particularly salient for the group of interest. For example, parents may be particularly motivated to do everything they can to protect the health of their children.
  • Campaigns and promotions can provide a direct message about the prevention and management of oral health (e.g., brushing teeth, regular dental care) or an indirect message about changes in behavior, environments, or policies that lead to increases in the prevention and management of oral health. For example, a campaign may be used to support water fluoridation. 
  • Previous work also suggests the importance of framing messages positively rather than negatively (i.e., highlighting the benefits or brushing regularly rather than the consequences of brushing irregularly). In addition, promotional items may be used to promote awareness of (i.e., branding) the intervention or enhance ability of individuals to engage in desired behavior(s).

expandWith whom should I work to create the best message for my oral health intervention?

collapseWith whom should I work to create the best message for my oral health intervention?

  • It is helpful to work with different community members and organizations to determine the most appropriate messages and routes of communication. Examples of potential partners include:
    • civic or community organizations (Head Start, Girl Scouts, YMCA)
    • dental offices
    • pharmacies
    • athletic facilities and clubs
    • grocery stores
    • government agencies
    • health departments
    • WIC clinic sites
    • senior centers or independent living facilities
    • schools
    • worksites
    • coalitions
    • neighborhoods
    • metropolitan centers
    • media personnel
    • celebrities
    • professional models
    • county and city officials
    • community leaders
    • community members
    • TV and radio personnel.
    • advertising agencies
    • researcher

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