Can public health campaigns help change behaviours that lead to reduced COVID-19 transmission?

Old Newsletter, Newspaper Article

Bottom Line:

A public health campaign in the Netherlands using a widely-circulated news article with infographics and a video featuring a social media influencer led to increases in hand washing, greater awareness of face touching, and physical distancing.


Yousuf, H. et al. Association of a public health campaign about coronavirus disease 2019 promoted by news media and a social influencer with self-reported personal hygiene and physical distancing in The Netherlands. JAMA Network Open, (2020).

Date Published:

8 July 2020


Public health campaigns may play a uniquely important role in curbing the transmission of COVID-19. In the absence of a vaccine, personal hygiene behaviours such as hand washing and physical distancing are critical to reducing the spread of the virus. This study conducted in the Netherlands examined people’s personal hygiene behaviours including hand washing duration and effectiveness (that is, whether all areas of the hands were properly cleaned), awareness of avoiding face touching, and physical distancing, before and after the launch of a public health awareness campaign. A targeted campaign was developed based on survey results, which included two interventions: 1) a news article with infographics including information about hand-washing and related statistics; and 2) an evidence-based video developed with a social media influencer, including instructions on proper hand washing and highlighting the importance of physical distancing. The study found that those exposed to the infographics alone, or the infographics and the video showed improved frequency of practicing personal hygiene behaviours than those who were not exposed to either of the interventions. Those who were exposed to the video alone were no more likely to have improved personal hygiene behaviours than those who were not exposed to the campaign at all. These results suggest that while public health campaigns have demonstrable results on people’s personal behaviours, there are important differences in the effectiveness of various modes of delivery.

Summary by: Jennifer Gutberg