News / Health

    Emotional Marketing Improves Handwashing Rates

    Emotional Marketing Improves Handwashing Ratesi
    X
    March 05, 2014 11:52 PM
    To get kids and moms to wash their hands, aim for their guts. That’s the lesson from a new study that focused on emotional appeals over hard facts to encourage handwashing, one of the best and most underutilized ways to prevent disease. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
    To get kids and moms to wash their hands, aim for their hearts.

    That is the lesson from a new study that focused on emotional appeals over hard facts to encourage handwashing, one of the best and most underutilized ways to prevent disease.

    Diarrheal and and respiratory diseases are the two leading causes of child death worldwide.  Research shows that just washing hands with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom can cut rates of some of these illnesses by a third.

    Everyone says it, no one does it

    But handwashing rates are low worldwide, despite years of public education campaigns.

    At the start of this study, published in the journal The Lancet Global Health, villagers in Andhra Pradesh, India, washed less than three percent of the time.

    “If you ask people, should they wash their hands with soap?  Almost everybody says, of course they should,” said Hygiene Center chief Val Curtis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The problem is, everyone says it, but hardly anybody actually does it.”

    Emotional advertising

    But rather than telling people that washing their hands is good for them, Curtis and her colleagues took a tip from the world of advertising.

    “Nobody sells fizzy drinks on the fact that it’s good nutrition,” she said. “They’re all sold on emotional benefits.”

    So they laid down ground rules for messaging: “No diarrhea, no death and no doctors," and developed a handwashing campaign that used emotional drivers like disgust and the desire to nurture.

    Gross lesson

    Curtis describes herself as a “disgustologist.”  It’s a more powerful motivator than information, she adds.

    Children watched a skit featuring a character who makes sweets out of mud and snot, and never washes his hands.  The kids recoiled in mock horror when he offered them his treats.

    “The emotion would be what taught them about dirty hands, not lecturing them,” Curtis said.

    The campaign took a different tack with mothers.

    Pass the hankies

    “Mothers care deeply about teaching their child good manners,” she noted. “And handwashing is part of good manners.”

    So a local ad agency worked with them to produce “SuperAmma,” or “SuperMom,” a cartoon character who is the hardworking, nurturing mother every mom aspires to be.

    SuperAmma teaches her son to always be polite, be clean, comb his hair, and wash his hands.

    In the cartoon’s final, tearjerking montage, all her hard work has paid off: her son has grown up to be a doctor.  It closes with the two of them in a loving embrace.

    “We had to pass the hankies around at the screenings in the villages,” Curtis said.

    "A step in the right direction"

    It worked.  Handwashing rates went from one or two percent at the start of the study to nearly a third a year after the campaign ended.

    It is not enough, Curtis said, but it is “a step in the right direction,” and it suggests a way forward for future campaigns.

    Emotions were probably not the only factor at work, notes international health professor Elli Leontsini at Johns Hopkins University.   They likely helped to change people’s behavior at the start.  

    But other parts of the campaign may have been more important for sustaining it.  For example, villagers made a public pledge to wash their hands with soap before eating and after using the bathroom.  That creates peer pressure and changes community expectations.

    “It’s a whole package, not just emotions,” Leontsini said.

    Expect more public health campaigns to get emotional.  Curtis plans to bring her approach to efforts aimed at raising breastfeeding rates and improving food preparation habits.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    March 03, 2014 12:04 AM
    Good idea. It is better if handwashing becomes habit which needs no emotional motivation.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora