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WMJ: Can social marketing increase immunizations for urban, low-income children?

Release Date: March 26, 2015
Contact: Jennifer Wieman - 608.442.3765 jennifer.wieman@wismed.org

MILWAUKEE (March 26, 2015)—A study published in the current issue of WMJ shows that a targeted social marketing campaign in an urban setting can increase awareness of childhood immunizations and motivate parents to get their children immunized. The study used billboards, flyers and other marketing mediums to promote immunizations in targeted inner city Milwaukee neighborhoods, where only 35 percent of children—ages 19 to 35 months—are immunized. This is compared to more than 77 percent of children who are immunized in Wisconsin and 73.6 percent in Milwaukee County.

The study’s social marketing campaign applied the message of “Take Control! Protect Your Child with Immunizations,” in two phases. Phase one was a billboard-only campaign, while phase two was a billboard-enhanced campaign that included billboards, as well as “walking billboard” materials: backpacks, pens, pencils, magnets, hand sanitizers, band aid holders, stickers, door hangers, T-shirts and flyers that contained the message. A survey was conducted following both campaigns to determine their efficacy.

While the authors found no significant differences between the billboard-only or billboard-enhanced approaches, a large proportion of the respondents did recall the “Take Control!” message, and almost half (46 percent) indicated their motivation to act. Almost one-third of respondents also mentioned getting their children immunized, and many who selected “other” actions mentioned activities related to immunization services such as making sure their child’s immunizations were up-to-date.

The authors noted that although immunizations have been a public health success, vaccine-preventable diseases continue to occur disproportionally within low-income, racial/ethnic populations. That disparity is preventable, however, if community awareness is elevated and vaccines are available through the health care delivery system. Of the 408 respondents from both surveys, more than 97 percent of the children in the project’s target population were African American.

“Culturally appropriate billboards in targeted community sites can be effective tools toward both an awareness and an intent to immunize children in low-income, minority neighborhoods,” the authors wrote.

Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. This peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.