Comprehensive Zika risk communications campaign launches in Puerto Rico

Campaign to empower pregnant women and communities to prevent Zika virus

stop zika

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – A new communications campaign aimed at empowering pregnant women on how to prevent Zika virus transmission has launched in Puerto Rico. The campaign, part of an effort with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC Foundation, the Puerto Rico Department of Health, and other partners announced in May, also focuses on empowering the social networks surrounding pregnant women—including partners, families, neighbors and community members—to take action to #StopZika in their homes and communities. RTI International led the research and creative work for the campaign.

Titled “This is How We Stop Zika,” the campaign provides steps for pregnant women and communities to follow to protect themselves from Zika virus infection, mainly by taking actions to prevent mosquito bites and avoiding potential sexual transmission of the virus. Support for this campaign is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Walgreens and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Current funding will support this campaign through early September. However, as mosquito season is expected to continue into December, the CDC Foundation urgently needs $1.5 million in funding to continue this vitally important campaign in Puerto Rico.

“Given the link between Zika virus, microcephaly and other poor birth outcomes, there is now a crucial and immediate need to educate and empower pregnant women to protect themselves from contracting the Zika virus,” said Linda Squiers, Ph.D., senior health communications scientist at RTI and the director for RTI’s part of this project. “The goal of this campaign is to encourage pregnant women, their partners, and their communities to join together to prevent transmission of the Zika virus. The campaign shows the steps they each can take to protect themselves and each other from Zika infection. Given the tremendous harm that can come to babies if exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy, the campaign will harness a universal motivation to protect babies.” 

RTI tested different campaign concepts with pregnant women and their partners and family members and used results to develop the final ads that can be seen on television stations, billboards, posters, and newspaper ads and can be heard on the radio. 

The ads state that “It’s time to come together as a community against the Zika virus.” The ads also say, “This is how we prevent the Zika virus” and show the specific behaviors that should be taken to avoid transmission of the virus such as emptying standing water in tires, buckets and flower pots; putting “dunks” (larvicide) into standing water, such as a small fountain; and installing window screens in a home. Personal preventive behaviors such as wearing long sleeves and using mosquito repellent are highlighted and all ads end with a healthy baby and remind us “This is why” we all need to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus.

The Zika virus outbreak poses very serious risks to pregnant women as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, and has been associated with pregnancy loss and other negative birth outcomes, including eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth. The multimedia campaign will run through early September and includes 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, and the engagement of traditional and social media influencers across the island.

“The campaign’s vital prevention messages are reaching the right people at the right time. We can accomplish so much more when we work together to combat Zika,” said Dr. Judith Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

To help launch the campaign, The Home Depot hosted a Zika Action Day with the Puerto Rico Department of Health on June 30. This event included a health fair and Zika prevention educational workshops at their Caguas store.  The event was attended by more than 800 community members.

Communities throughout Puerto Rico are being challenged to have their own Zika Action Day by organizing and promoting community clean-ups, hosting Zika education sessions and spreading facts about how to prevent the spread of Zika and why it’s important to do so.  On the campaign’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DetenelZika), community members are sharing how they plan to prevent Zika and why it’s important.

For more information about the campaign, go to www.helpstopzika.org or www.detenelzika.org. Learn more about RTI's Zika research