Department of Health launches research-based social norms campaign

Posted on Aug 18, 2020 in Newsroom

HONOLULU — The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) launched the first phase of a new statewide educational campaign today as part of a comprehensive, multi-pronged solution to address the sustained number of COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i.

The “Not Taking Chances” campaign, developed with research, creative and production support from Anthology Marketing Group, aims to change social norms by modeling attitudes and behaviors to underscore the importance of wearing facial masks and avoiding groups and social gatherings.

“Prevention is key to bringing the number of cases down,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson, noting that disease investigation, contact tracing, testing and other aspects of the pandemic response are also key priorities.

Since most of the positive cases have been on O‘ahu, Anderson noted: “We believe our efforts dovetail with the City & County of Honolulu’s ‘One O‘ahu’ campaign that is already underway and will create a powerful, cumulative effect throughout the island.”

“Research has shown that the majority of Hawai‘i residents know what to do, but aren’t adhering to the guidance,” he said. “Social norm campaigns have proven to be effective in changing health behaviors relating to drunk driving, substance use, smoking, and wearing seat belts and we believe this will be another important way to lower the number of cases in Hawai‘i.” 

As part the campaign’s first phase, the ads will be seen on broadcast and cable television, radio, print, digital, social, and streaming platforms through the end of September. The second phase of the campaign is planned for October through the end of the year.

The “Not Taking Chances” campaign was developed based on survey data collected in mid-April and June 2020 among adults in Hawai‘i. Survey respondents stated that the most convincing messages that would motivate them to adhere to infection control recommendations were “protecting our kupuna” and “protecting those who are most vulnerable in our communities.” When asked to choose only one reason, “the call for Hawai‘i to come together” received the most votes in May. In June, the reason for compliance was split between “the call for Hawai‘i to come together” among O‘ahu residents and the need “to get back to work” among neighbor island residents.

The survey results also demonstrated high awareness of COVID-19 prevention messages and showed that individuals who could recall messages from the DOH are more likely to follow current recommendations. Both baseline and follow-up surveys validate that the DOH reached a majority, or 95 percent, of Hawai‘i residents with its messages related to COVID-19 prevention practices in the early response to the pandemic. In the June follow-up survey, awareness of COVID-19 guidelines increased, with more than 90 percent of respondents recalling 12 of 18 recommended prevention guidelines when prompted.

A third survey is currently in the field and will serve as the baseline to track the effectiveness of the current campaign, and two subsequent surveys will track progress through the end of the year. Focus groups with young adults, parents, older adults—as well as interviews with Pacific Islanders—are also being conducted virtually over the next two weeks to better understand motivators and barriers to behavior change among these segments and to inform the development of phase two of the campaign.

“Research-based messages are the most effective at reaching pockets of the population such as young adults, Pacific Islanders, and those who work in service industries,” said DOH Communications Director Janice Okubo. “Research on awareness, behaviors, and perceptions is the basis for effective public health communication and is the nationally accepted standard for all health education and outreach efforts.”

The $250,000 Anthology contract includes the development, research, and evaluation of phases one and two of the “Not Taking Chances” campaign including creative and production support for television, radio and digital placements, surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

View the campaign phase one advertisements here: “I Wear a Mask” and “I Avoid Social Gatherings.” For the latest information about coronavirus and how to protect yourself and others, visit

#  #  #

PDF:  Department of Health launches research-based social norms campaign