Health Awareness Days

by Rachel Stokes on October 2, 2017

This  morning whilst I was googling something – of course I can’t remember what I started to search for by the time I had gone off track in a way that only Mr G (Google) can do – I stumbled upon numerous health awareness days urging me to give up this, that and the other!

One or two of the campaigns I was aware of but the rest weren’t even on my radar. I asked myself “Why have I missed these?”

I am bold enough to call myself a health & activity specialist, with countless years to mention in the industry and yet I had missed a few of the major campaigns – all happening in the same week.  Should I drop my head in shame? Had I fallen asleep like Cinders or been in my own ReferAll bubble for too long? I may be guilty of the latter but I couldn’t help wonder...

“Are we flooded with too many National Awareness days on the public health calendar and what, if any, effect do they have on the health of our Nation?”

Meanwhile I did some further research courtesy of Mr B (Bing) and counted 56 National campaigns or ‘awareness’ days on the 2017 NHS public health calendar.

First off, 56 - yes 56 - sounds rather a lot to me. That doesn’t include campaigns organised by National bodies or even your local CCG (if you know what that is you’re doing well). In a world of information overload, I can see why health organisations need to shout louder for 1 day out of 365 to be heard but in a sea of media campaigns are the people we are trying to reach missing our message altogether? Year on year additional resource is ploughed into these campaigns, are we in danger of marketing to the same 20% of serial engagers?

The topics vary so greatly, each campaign a very worthy cause I’ve no doubt. Either scheduled events on a specific date in the year or a week or month-long campaign, all are based around subjects one might class as ‘This is my specialist topic’ to ‘I’ve heard of that but couldn’t tell you much more about it’ and I went no further.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking any of these campaigns. There all have their worth – nonetheless dare I ask what would happen if we took a break from National awareness days in favour of each organisation creating a powerfully consistent media campaign 365 days of the year? We can learn much from: Why DLKW Lowe’s stroke work is ‘the most effective public health work ever’ article. The FAST message is still seen on the side of the NHS Ambulance Service vehicles today, some 8 years later!

Playing devil’s advocate, some say is a skill I have acquired over the years. If I’ve triggered a reaction in this article, if it’s got you thinking about your exercise referral scheme, health trainer service or healthy grandparents’ day' PR campaign – and kept you reading until the end of this article – I’ve done my job.

My final word on health awareness campaigns - well 2 words actually – “Go forth” health professionals, enjoy the awareness day you are involved in but consider this train of thought – what would a 365 message promoting key learnings achieve? A more favourable outcome v less resource?

Healthy regards,


Rachel Stokes

Head of Consulting


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Topics: Health Awareness, Health Campaigns, Public Health Campaigns, Health Awareness Days