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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Leveraging Big Data to Improve Health Awareness Campaigns: A Novel Evaluation of the Great American

Monday, June 20, 2016  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Ayers JW, Westmaas JL, Leas EC, Benton A, Chen Y, Dredze M, Althouse BM
Leveraging Big Data to Improve Health Awareness Campaigns: A Novel Evaluation of the Great American Smokeout.
JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2016 Mar 31;2(1):e16. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.5304.

Awareness campaigns are ubiquitous, but little is known about their potential effectiveness because traditional evaluations are often unfeasible. For 40 years, the "Great American Smokeout" (GASO) has encouraged media coverage and popular engagement with smoking cessation on the third Thursday of November as the nation's longest running awareness campaign. We proposed a novel evaluation framework for assessing awareness campaigns using the GASO as a case study by observing cessation-related news reports and Twitter postings, and cessation-related help seeking via Google, Wikipedia, and government-sponsored quitlines.
 
Time trends (2009-2014) were analyzed using a quasi-experimental design to isolate spikes during the GASO by comparing observed outcomes on the GASO day with the simulated counterfactual had the GASO not occurred. Cessation-related news typically increased by 61% (95% CI 35-87) and tweets by 13% (95% CI -21 to 48) during the GASO compared with what was expected had the GASO not occurred. Cessation-related Google searches increased by 25% (95% CI 10-40), Wikipedia page visits by 22% (95% CI -26 to 67), and quitline calls by 42% (95% CI 19-64). Cessation-related news media positively coincided with cessation tweets, Internet searches, and Wikipedia visits; for example, a 50% increase in news for any year predicted a 28% (95% CI -2 to 59) increase in tweets for the same year. Increases on the day of the GASO rivaled about two-thirds of a typical New Year's Day-the day that is assumed to see the greatest increases in cessation-related activity. In practical terms, there were about 61,000 more instances of help seeking on Google, Wikipedia, or quitlines on GASO each year than would normally be expected. These findings provide actionable intelligence to improve the GASO and model how to rapidly, cost-effectively, and efficiently evaluate hundreds of awareness campaigns, nearly all for the first time.
 


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