Check Yourself: a social marketing campaign to increase syphilis screening in Los Angeles County

Sex Transm Dis. 2014 Jan;41(1):50-7. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000069.


Background: In 2007, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched Check Yourself, a new social marketing campaign, as part of ongoing efforts to address the persistent syphilis epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the county. The goals of the campaign were to increase syphilis testing and knowledge among MSM. Check Yourself was planned with careful attention to the principles of social marketing, including formative research, market segmentation, and an emphasis on building a strong brand.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey using a time-location sample was conducted in 2009 for the evaluation. The survey assessed demographics, syphilis knowledge, and recent syphilis testing as well as unaided awareness, aided awareness, and confirmed awareness, meaning that a person had both awareness of the campaign and could correctly identify that the campaign was about syphilis. The total sample size was 306.

Results: Unaided awareness for Check Yourself was 20.7%, and aided awareness was 67.5%, bringing total campaign awareness to 88.2%; confirmed awareness was 30.4%. Unaided campaign awareness was associated with syphilis knowledge and important risk behaviors for syphilis, indicating that the campaign reached an appropriate audience. Total awareness was not associated with recent syphilis testing in a multivariate model. However, MSM with confirmed awareness were more than 6 times more likely to have been recently tested.

Conclusions: The evaluation of Check Yourself found that the campaign had a very strong brand among MSM. Although total awareness was not associated with syphilis testing, confirmed awareness, a more robust measure, was strongly associated.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion*
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Marketing*
  • Syphilis / prevention & control*
  • Syphilis / psychology