In August 2016, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said that one in four of Puerto Rico’s nearly 3.5 million residents could be infected with the Zika virus by the end of that year. The following day, the U.S. government declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico as a result of the Zika epidemic.
As of December 2016, more than 33,000 cases of Zika have been reported in Puerto Rico, with 97 percent of them reported as locally acquired. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5,900 to 10,300 pregnant women might get infected during the initial Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe brain defects, making this outbreak a serious risk to pregnant women. Educating and empowering pregnant women in Puerto Rico to protect themselves from Zika virus is critically important.
This Is How We Stop Zika
To help meet that critical need, the CDC Foundation asked our experts in communication science and social marketing to create and implement a campaign for pregnant women in Puerto Rico. After research and message development, the campaign launched in June 2016. Our team created a theory-based, audience-informed, multichannel social marketing campaign and implemented the campaign through messages and products developed in Spanish and translated into English. To reach pregnant women throughout Puerto Rico, these products were placed across a variety of media and channels—including paid and donated advertising across traditional and digital media, outreach through media interviews and program integrations, and partnerships.
Our campaign uses clear language and uplifting messages to encourage pregnant women to protect themselves and to encourage their partners, family, friends, and community to take action to reduce the spread of Zika.
We developed key messages around a central theme demonstrating specific actions that pregnant women, their partners, and those in their community can take to stop Zika (how we stop Zika) and emphasizing the importance of taking action in protecting babies (why we stop Zika). Through consistent and reinforcing messages, campaign materials direct users to the This Is How We Stop Zika website or the social media home on Facebook, where people can learn more about Zika, access resources from CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, order materials, and engage with the campaign.
Empowering Puerto Ricans to Prevent Zika Virus Infection and Transmission
Key events of this campaign included a Zika Action Day, attended by more than 800 residents of Caguas, a community located 20 miles from the capital of San Juan, and jointly hosted by the Home Depot and the Puerto Rico Health Department with CDC engagement and technical assistance. The multimedia campaign ran through September and included television and radio interviews and public service announcements, national and regional newspaper ads, billboards throughout Puerto Rico, social media, web, and mobile ads and banners, as well as engagement with traditional and social media influencers across the island.
The campaign formally concluded in September 2016, but partners plan to continue to use the campaign materials.
By showing people how to protect themselves and each other from Zika infection, the campaign aims to both empower and educate—and ultimately, to safeguard the people of Puerto Rico, especially pregnant women, against this alarming epidemic.