Overdoses from opioids are on the rise and killing Americans of all races and ages. Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids, and more than 40 people die each day from prescription opioid overdoses (CDC). Families and communities across the country are coping with devastating health, emotional, and economic effects of this epidemic. To help raise awareness of this important issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Rx Awareness campaign, which tells the stories of people whose lives were impacted by prescription opioids. The goals of the campaign are to increase awareness that prescription opioids can be addictive and dangerous, to reinforce that help is available for those suffering from an opioid use disorder, to reduce stigma, and to encourage those struggling with prescription opioids to visit the campaign website to locate help and resources.
In 2020, CDC launched campaign ads focused on audiences that are heavily impacted by the opioid overdose crisis, including pregnant women, veterans, younger adults (25-to-34-year-olds), older adults (45-to-54-year-olds), and American Indians/Alaska Natives. This entry focuses on two of CDC’s key audiences—pregnant women and American Indians/Alaska Natives. The campaign videos share Tessa’s story about taking prescription opioids while pregnant and how her children led her to recovery, and Stevi Rae’s story about her powerful experience going through treatment with other Alaska Natives.
CDC initially launched the Rx Awareness campaign in 2017 to increase awareness and knowledge about the dangers of prescription opioids. By 2020, data suggested that most people were well informed of the addictive and dangerous nature of prescription opioids. The need for a different message emerged—one that conveyed that help is available for individuals experiencing opioid use disorder and that recovery from addiction to prescription opioids is possible. To share this critical message, CDC expanded the campaign to include new stories that create connection, convey hope, and encourage people to seek help.
As part of the 2020 strategy, CDC recognized the importance of reaching audiences who are heavily impacted by the opioid overdose crisis, including pregnant women, veterans, younger adults (25-to-34-year-olds), older adults (45-to-54-year-olds), and American Indians/Alaska Natives. CDC understood the need to highlight personal stories of recovery for specific audiences that were most affected by the crisis. To ensure that the key messages would be believable and resonate with their specific intended audiences, CDC knew the messengers needed to be authentic when speaking about their unique perspectives and experiences. To address this, CDC created first-person testimonials from individuals in each audience segment who had suffered with opioid use disorders and were now in recovery. Next, interviews were conducted with individuals from each audience group, and their resulting stories were captured in powerful videos that relayed their journey to recovery.
This submission focuses on two of CDC’s key audiences—pregnant women and American Indians/Alaska Natives. Tessa’s video shares her story about taking prescription opioids while pregnant and how her children led her to recovery. Stevi Rae’s video shares her struggle with addiction and her experience going through treatment with other Alaska Natives. Both videos convey a sense of connection and hope, using first-person narration, lighting, authentic scenery, and camerawork to help relay their stories. CDC tested each of the videos with members of their respective intended audience. Tessa’s video was tested with women who had previously taken prescription opioids while pregnant and Stevi Rae’s video with Alaska Natives who had previously used prescription opioids. Participants identified areas where they felt small refinements would improve the videos further and these changes were reflected in the final versions. Overall, participants in the testing found the videos to be compelling, authentic, and powerful. They felt the videos conveyed hope that recovery from addiction is possible.
Tessa’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNyTT_S5t4w
Stevi Rae’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFFH0f8Wumc
The ads were disseminated through digital ad buys in strategic counties within West Virginia, Utah, New Mexico, and statewide in Alaska. Between July 13-August 31, 2020, the campaign generated nearly 25 million impressions with 3.9 million video views in the lower 48 states. In Alaska, the campaign delivered over 1.1 million impressions and garnered more than 335,000 completed video views. In comparison to the same time period in 2019 (July 13-August 31, 2019), there was a 915% increase in website visits to the Rx Awareness website (from 7,627 to 77,376 visits). This increase in web traffic indicates a relationship between the number of people viewing the ads and the number of people seeking information.
To further assess effectiveness of the campaign’s ads and messaging, CDC used Google’s Consumer Survey platform to evaluate the impact of the campaign materials in West Virginia and Utah. The survey engaged a panel of online and mobile app users, surveying them immediately before and then again after campaign ads appeared on a YouTube Masthead in selected markets with 1,000 respondents per wave. Overall, findings from the survey indicated that the ads resonated with the intended audiences and that respondents found the ads to be meaningful, believable, and informative. The majority of respondents believed that there is hope for recovery from addiction to opioids. Many were also motivated to take steps to lessen their own risk of addiction. The survey confirmed that more than half of respondents planned to seek out information about prescription opioids.