The American Social Health Association (ASHA) educates people about preventing sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs/STIs).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 79% of new infections of one STD, chlamydia, occur in people 24 years old and younger. Quest Diagnostics data revealed the average age of women who got tested in 2005 for chlamydia was 28.9; and 30.5 for men.
"Only about one-third of [doctors] test for chlamydia despite the high rates of new infections among young people," says ASHA president and CEO Lynn Barclay.
ASHA wanted to give doctors and young people information to make it easier to discuss STDs and testing, Barclay notes.
ASHA approached Quest, which granted money for the campaign and provided data - critical to substantiate the need for testing and to hook media - and hired The Reilly Group.
"A nonprofit can't do everything alone," says Barclay. "We look to form partnerships all the time. It's good for everybody."
Physician spokespeople lent weight. A young woman who had been treated for chlamydia was also enlisted to speak out. "Young people listen to young people," Barclay explains.
ASHA hoped the campaign also would open the door to discussion of other STDs.
Radio provided reach, as well as some anonymity, but media relations also included TV in select markets and print.
The Reilly Group prepared all media materials, designed the logo, and provided media training for Peter Leone, MD, medical director at North Carolina HIV/ STD Prevention and Control Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, Jim Allen, MD, former president of ASHA, and the patient.
"We found the patient, which was no easy task," says Susan Reilly, president of the Reilly Group. "We only had six weeks of planning, and we spent probably half trying to find a patient. No body wants to talk about it."
"With limited funds, we thought [radio] would pay off most handsomely," Barclay says. "Because of the nature of the subject... it was easier for her to go on radio."
ASHA's Web site was leveraged to give information, and all publicity featured Quest data and CDC recommendations. Educational materials were available in English and Spanish, including a brochure with tips to help young people talk with their doctors.
More than 600 stories aired on radio and television broadcasts. Medical trades, such as Infection Control Today, Contraceptive Technology Update, and Science Letter, also covered the story.
ASHA's Get teSTeD Web page got 5,610 visits, and Quest Diagnostics' received 1,742 visits. More than 3,200 brochures have been downloaded.
ASHA is talking with different companies about partnerships and funding to continue the campaign.
"We need more support and high-visibility spokespeople to truly make an impact and protect future generations," says Barclay.
PR team: American Social Health Association (Research Triangle Park, NC) and The Reilly Group (Chicago)
Campaign: Get teSTeD
Duration: March to April 2006
Everyone benefits from partnerships such as this one between ASHA and Quest. Nonprofits are often stretched thin, and ASHA was wise to enlist the Reilly Group. It is difficult to get anyone, particularly teens, to speak out about STDs because of the topic's sensitive nature. Kudos to Susan Reilly for going into schools and everywhere else she could think of to speak to kids and find a patient who was willing to speak out.
However, it's important to think of how more funding could have extended the reach of the campaign. Pharma should recognize the efficacy of such campaigns and commit to further spending on them.