Showcasing Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity rates are historically high—putting millions of children at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses—and children growing up in families with low incomes have traditionally been at the greatest risk for obesity. About half of all infants born in the United States are covered by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which supports the health and nutrition of young children and new mothers. Preventing obesity in early childhood is essential for setting more children on the path to better health, so WIC can be an essential obesity-prevention policy for millions of children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention periodically publishes data tracking the obesity rate among children participating in WIC. Based on past data trends, we were able to anticipate that the data published in fall 2019 would likely be positive—that they would show declines in childhood obesity rates for this group.
When published, the data showed widespread declines in the obesity rate among young children participating in WIC, which dropped in 41 states and territories, as well as at the national level and among all racial and ethnic groups measured. In cooperation with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Burness developed a rapid response plan to help ensure that the data gained widespread attention, and that RWJF was able to emphasize its messaging and policy priorities in the context of the positive news.
We conducted outreach across national and state level media to key partners, advocates and select policymaker audiences. We quickly produced a special report on WIC and obesity prevention, combining the new data with success stories, policy context and recommendations. We also updated content for and promoted the RWJF website, StateofChildhoodObesity.org, which includes simple data interactives showing trends over time. Finally, we supported all these elements with an effective social media promotion effort using organic and paid components.
Results & Impact
The combination of tactics we used effectively amplified the positive news about declines in childhood obesity rates and ensured RWJF’s messaging was part of the discussion. The Washington Post, CNN, Politico and other national outlets covered the new data, as did local outlets in 14 states. We were able to place an op-ed by RWJF in The Hill, and supported placement of an op-ed by an advocate in Nevada. The website pages we promoted, which included the new data and RWJF messaging, garnered tens of thousands of visitors during the promotion windows. Our organic Facebook approach—which included a brief video of a partner advocating for WIC and visual representations of data trends over time—resulted in some of the best engagement outcomes for the State of Childhood Obesity account. Finally, our two paid Facebook efforts produced high click through rates, low costs per click and generated hundreds of email sign-ups at a rate far more efficient than industry average. Overall, our multi-faceted outreach plan ensured the positive news reached wide audiences and reinforced the message that progress in preventing obesity is possible.