Your browser doesn't support JavaScript. Please upgrade to a modern browser or enable JavaScript in your existing browser.
Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Clinical Preventive Services

Key Audiences


William Smith, Ed.D., Executive Vice President, Academy for Educational Development, Washington DC.

Marketing can be a very sophisticated practice that requires training and talent. However, not all public health problems require highly expert social marketing strategies. There are ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of the message with a core group of tools and ideas. Influencing peoples' behavior through persuasive social marketing strategies can make prevention programs more successful. State and local policymakers can use several strategies to develop and disseminate an effective prevention message to key audiences.

The overall goal should be to make preventive services easy yet engaging. This can be accomplished through several processes:

  • Focus the message instead of talking about prevention in general. Effective messages include specific information, such as why a preventive service is needed, and when and where to receive services.
  • Target specific audiences. The public wants solutions to their health problems, policymakers want cost-effective programs, and the media wants human interest stories.
  • Catch every opportunity. Whenever a child is seen by a doctor, preventive care should be discussed.
  • Build relationships with the press. The press can be a useful ally when approached correctly. When dealing with the press, ensure that all the facts are correct. Look at the human interest aspect of reports and include pictures whenever possible.
  • Support the routine system. Develop reminder messages to be delivered at regular times and beware of one-time campaign efforts. Reminders can be tied to key days of the year.
  • Develop partnerships within the community. Involve grassroots organizations and businesses that cater to children; enlist the services of teens and elders.
  • Appeal to the self-interest of those involved. Advertise the opportunity to participate; recruit for an activity instead of a meeting.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that there is an easy-to-reach audience and a hard-to-reach audience. Outreach coordinators need to take these disparate audiences into account. Even States that have attained high coverage rates are still confronted with a percentage of the population that remains unimmunized. Physical access and consumer barriers, such as lack of information and motivation, and conflicting cultural beliefs or poor social support systems may be at fault. Research can identify the hard-to-reach groups so outreach efforts can target them.


Communication as a means of sustaining immunization coverage. EPI Update 20, October 1991 (AED). Printed in Switzerland.

Smith E. Social marketing: marketing with no budget. Social Marketing Quarterly 1999;5(2):6-11.

Previous Section Previous Section         Contents         Next Section Next Section

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.

AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care