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.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid