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Kingston University leads research into local digital public health campaigns

Posted Monday 22 January 2024

Kingston University leads research into local digital public health campaigns Research from Kingston University evaluated the effectiveness of four major public health campaigns by the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames Council.

Kingston University academics and staff from the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames' Department of Health Behaviours and Public Health Services have published an evaluation of the effectiveness of a series of locally-led digital public health campaigns.

The work concluded that local authority-led online marketing campaigns for health promotion, assessed across a variety of platforms, health promotion initiatives, and population targets, are useful for increasing participation in public health programmes.

The study, commissioned by Kingston Council and evaluated by health psychology experts Professor Tushna Vandrevala and Dr Kristin Hanson, analysed four locally-led public health campaigns that employed a variety of digital marketing methods including social media advertising, search engine optimisation and programmatic marketing.

The campaigns, designed as interventions to increase involvement in public health programmes, included a drive to increase the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine, a weight management programme, at-home sexual health testing, and a free condom distribution programme.

The research, which has been published in the Digital Health Journal, looked at online health promotion initiatives undertaken by the Council between July 2020 and April 2022. The academic experts examined a variety of levels of engagement with the campaigns, including impressions (low engagement), click throughs to content (medium engagement) and sign-ups for each campaign (high engagement).

Dr Hanson said the researchers' findings showed the potential impact online marketing holds public health. "Locally-led digital marketing for public health has the potential to extend the reach of health services by harnessing the communication means that are used regularly to provide information to members of the public that is specifically tailored for that community. These types of campaigns can be really cost effective, can overcome barriers to participation, and are a great way to get vital public health information to people quickly," she said.

Targeted online marketing had also allowed organisations to be more inclusive, Professor Vandrevala added. "Social media and using search engine optimisation for marketing allow local authorities to target health promotion in specific groups and communities that most need vital information," she said. "Before the emergence of these tools, it was very hard to reach groups such as younger people, those from ethnically diverse backgrounds or target behaviours that are associated with stigma, such as sexual or mental health. These findings show how crucial digital campaigns can be in era where we're constantly seeing advances in technology."

Director of Public Health at the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames Council Iona Lidington said the collaboration with Kingston University has highlighted the impact of paid marketing on public health service uptake. "This publication underscores our commitment to evidence-based practices and partnership working, and provides a solid foundation for ever improving our public health interventions and strategies - improving health and wellbeing outcomes in our local community and delivering value for money for our residents."

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