Data and Background

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Data and Background

The first step in constructing a social marketing campaign focusing on sexual health is to have a clear understanding of the community’s sexual behaviors and health outcomes.

Are there significant differences in:

  • STD prevalence or teen births by gender, age or race/ethnicity?
  • prevalence by geographical boundaries?
  • access to health care services?

There are numerous resources that contain data on disease and sexual health behaviors (e.g. STD prevalence rates, teen birth rates, STD testing rates, etc.) specific to your community, the state and the nation.  Below is a brief listing of where to access various data sources:


After reviewing the data and surveillance reports from various perspectives (local, state, national) in order to identify high-risk groups and priority geographic communities, you are ready to focus the social marketing campaign on a specific priority population.  The priority population is the group that you most want to reach through the social marketing campaign. 

The next step in data and background information gathering is researching the sexual health knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors (KABB) of your priority population. The goal is to identify both direct and indirect factors that influence sexual health outcomes.

Examples of Direct Factors   

 Examples of Indirect Factors

Frequency of sex   
Drug/alcohol use
Number of sex partners/concurrent partners
Violent/intimate partner violence

Knowledge of and access to condoms


Knowledge of proper contraceptive use and access to contraceptives            

School drop-out rates
Knowledge of and access to STD testing and treatment                    
Access to care: health insurance coverage, community clinic density

You can start researching the sexual health KABB of your priority group by conducting a literature review.  A literature review is a comprehensive, systematic collection of published articles on a particular topic.  The purpose of conducting a literature review is to gather evidence-based research related to your priority population and the intended behavior change of your social marketing campaign. 

A wide variety of resources are available to assist you in the literature review, including PubMed, a free health research search engine that you can utilize to search various journal article abstracts with complete access to whole articles via subscription.  PubMed  includes over 19 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals.  Keep in mind that without a subscription to the journals, you will only be able to access article abstracts.
There are also a number of national and local surveys that can be useful in understanding your priority population's KABB
  • CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This system of state-based health surveys collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access primarily related to chronic disease and injury.
  • CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics has the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which is conducted periodically and is a great source for KABB and STD prevalence data.

  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) The CDC's YRBS monitors health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults every two years. The YRBS includes a national school-based survey conducted by the CDC as well as local, state, territorial, and tribal surveys conducted by local governmental and educational agencies. Each locality determines which questions are acceptable for their community.

  • The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) is a state-specific survey which is conducted every two years with many core questions repeated in each subsequent survey in order to measure significant shifts over time. You can compare California-specific data with local data using CHIS.
Population segmentation is a central feature of social marketing which has been borrowed from commercial practice.  Segmentation is used to identify the groups most reachable by a social marketing campaign and it also helps determine how to tailor the message for each subgroup.  It allows you to identify distinct groups of people who are like each other in key ways and who are likely to respond to particular messages similarly.
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