HEALTHCARE CAMPAIGN: '12 Asks' to cut hepatitis rate

Chronic hepatitis B and C together affect more than 500 million people worldwide, resulting in about 1.5 million deaths a year.

Campaign: World Hepatitis Day 2008
Client: World Hepatitis Alliance
PR team: Fleishman-Hillard London
Timescale: October 2007 to May 2008
Budget: £400,000 (fees and costs) plus pro bono work

In the UK, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people are living with hepatitis C, the majority of whom have not been diagnosed.

A further 325,000 people are living with hepatitis B - and the number is rising, according to figures from The Hepatitis C Trust and Hepatitis B Foundation.

Hepatitis awareness events have long taken place in individual countries on various days throughout the year. However, in 2007 patient groups from seven world regions got together to establish the World Hepatitis Alliance, a global consensus on messages and actions.

After a competitive pitch, this grass-roots body appointed Fleishman-Hillard London to devise a global disease awareness strategy and provide support for the first World Hepatitis Day on 19 May.

To build a platform for sustained disease awareness of chronic viral hepatitis B and C at country, regional and global level.

To mobilise about 200 patient groups worldwide to lobby national governments and global organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

To secure international funding from corporate and media partnerships.

Strategy and plan
The campaign combined both PR and public affairs tactics and focused on the shocking statistic that one in 12 people worldwide is living with chronic hepatitis B or C. This disease rate is far higher than that of either HIV/Aids or any one type of cancer, yet awareness of the risks, symptoms and available treatments is inexplicably low in comparison.

So F-H devised a public-facing teaser theme and logo 'Am I number 12?'. The campaign was targeted at a mass audience, prompting people to question whether they should be tested for the disease.

The agency also developed '12 Asks for 2012', outlining 12 key points to encourage governments to implement public health campaigns to reduce the incidence of the disease at national levels.

To support these activities, the PR team launched the first global compendium for hepatitis - the Hepatitis Atlas - intended to become the authoritative resource for disease data and best-practice policy implementation.

On 19 May, a briefing of the World Health Assembly took place in Geneva, supported by the WHO.

Measurement and evaluation
The campaign gained more than 600 pieces of coverage from global media, including The Lancet, The Times (UK), La Nacion (Argentina), Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Xinhua News Agency (China), Agence France-Presse, Commercial Radio Hong Kong, Sky News (UK & Australia), Le Matin (Morocco) and 7 Days (UAE).

More than 160 events, supported by more than 200 patient groups from 47 countries, took place around the world, including a rock concert in Bangladesh, while the 'Am I number 12' logo was translated into more than 40 languages.

Government support was secured in Algeria, Australia, Argentina, China and the UK, with Scotland agreeing to be an official early adopter of the '12 Asks'. The campaign was endorsed by healthcare groups including Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the European and Latin American Associations for the Study of the Liver.

Eleven opinion leaders, including Nobel laureate Baruch S Blumberg (the American scientist who identified the hepatitis B virus and later developed the diagnostic test and vaccine for it), joined an expert reference group. Twelve companies, including Bloomberg and outdoor advertiser Clear Channel, gave sponsorship and in-kind support.

Pat Pearson, head of ethical healthcare, The Red Consultancy's Red Healthcare division

There is a general sense of weariness about awareness days. They have been over-used, often by undeserving campaigns.

Pat PearsonBut this campaign was totally deserving. Hepatitis kills about 1.5 million people every year. But that alone would not have been enough to carry the campaign if it had not been properly organised.

That's what makes Fleishman-Hilliard's achievement all the more impressive. The agency generated genuine excitement around the first World Hepatitis Day that helped bring together disparate national activities into a comprehensive global campaign.

From the WHO and the European Parliament through to local charities and healthcare providers, people around the world came together to discuss the 'Am I number 12?' theme.

It looks like F-H concentrated on getting the basics right. The theme and logo were simple, delivered the message and were easy to translate into different languages. This was tied into a policy initiative - '12 Asks for 2012'.

Getting commitment from governments off the back of awareness campaigns is always challenging, but this looks to have been well executed.

It would be good to see more of the outcomes, though. In the end, it takes commitment from governments, industry or philanthropists to make a real difference. I also wonder whether F-H missed an opportunity by not involving celebrities. However, the global reach of the campaign was impressive.

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