How the Essential Elements of a Campaign Could Improve Zika Understanding

A recent article from Outbreak News Today reports that while many Americans have heard of Zika Virus, fewer than 4 in 10 really understand the threats that go along with it, like birth defects, and the details of infection and transmission, including that there will often be no symptoms, and that it can be passed on sexually.

The article goes on to explain that in the absence of any real vaccine or treatment for Zika, risk communication is the best way to prevent people from contracting the virus.

Given the lack of understanding, how could some of the traditional elements of a campaign work towards keeping people Zika free? Here are some ideas:


The article specifically mentions that Americans are lacking in Zika understanding. Have other countries had more success? What did they do?

Additionally, where are people getting health information? Is it really from a doctor or other medical source? Where else could information be placed?

Likewise, who is the most at-risk audience? Is the information being provided culturally relevant to them?

Audience Selection

Pregnant women are of course a very important target audience for the campaign, but are there other groups that could help stop the spread of Zika, and help potentially infected patients get care? For example, sexually active men, mothers of pregnant women, or friends of pregnant women?

Goals and Objectives

The article focuses on concerns not necessarily around the number of Zika cases, but the lack of understanding surrounding Zika. Given this, goals and objectives should focus in on specific issues, like increasing understanding that it leads to birth defects, can be transmitted sexually, and may not give you symptoms.

Action Strategies

Product: There could be potential for innovative places to share Zika information, such as on condoms or other birth control packaging or on pregnancy tests. It is also possible that information could be in more basic forms, such as on pamphlets, social media sites, etc.

Price: Strictly informational materials would most likely benefit from being free, but could there be ways to offer coupons for items like those mentioned above with Zika information on them, or products that those most at risk for Zika are consistently purchasing?

Place: Information should ultimately be where people are most likely to be searching for health information, but having it at a decision point (like “Am I pregnant?” or “Should I use protection?”) could be an interesting prospect.

Communications Strategy

There seems to be a lot of noise around Zika virus, so it may be important to stick to very straightforward messages not cluttered with other information, like:

“Zika Virus can be transmitted sexually. Use protection.”

“Zika Virus can cause birth defects. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, avoid going outside in the Wynwood neighborhood.”

“Zika Virus may not give you any symptoms. If you have been to the Wynwood neighborhood visit your doctor to get tested.”

It may be valuable to figure out if English or another language is the most appropriate to have messages in. Likewise, depending on who the message is for, who delivers the message may be important (is it an athlete, a Telenovela star, a female physician, a regular person?).


Once the campaign has been implemented, it will be important to track specific data again around understanding of the specifics of Zika, not just the number of cases or awareness of the existence of Zika.



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