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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid