Do health awareness days have an impact on our behavior?

April 5, 2016

Take a glance at the calendar: World Autism Awareness Day is just around the corner. As are World Health Day, World Lupus Day, and many more. One federal catalog lists 212 separate health-focused awareness days.

Health awareness days are ubiquitous. But does dedicating a day to a serious disease or to healthy living habits actually make a difference? That’s been difficult to determine because traditional methods, like telephone surveys, usually aren’t effective in gauging the effect of a single event occurring on a single day. A recent review of awareness days, for instance, found virtually no evidence of their impact.

But a new study published Thursday in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and other institutions used big data analyses to confirm that at least one annual health awareness day does indeed trigger behavior among many of the people who hear about it. Mark Dredze, an assistant research professor in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and an affiliate of the Center for Language and Speech Processing, supervised the research that took place at JHU.

Excerpted from The Hub.

Center for Language and Speech Processing