Americans’ use of opioid painkillers and heroin continue to rise, contributing to a high rate of overdoses, opioid use disorder, and related health consequences. Pennsylvania has been among the states hardest hit, with the sixth highest overdose death rate in the nation in 2015.
Effective public health communication requires consistent messaging in plain language. Although many individuals and organizations work on the opioid problem in our state, Pennsylvania did not have a statewide public health campaign about opioid use and its risks.
Prejudice, discrimination, and misinformation about people with addictions are common. These negative beliefs can discourage people who use drugs and their families from seeking help or feeling comfortable with sharing their experiences.
In 2015, with funding from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, a Pennsylvania-based workgroup launched the PA Stop campaign to prevent opioid use disorders and overdose. IRETA has served as the Research Consultant for the PA Stop work group since its creation.
PA Stop’s two slogans are: “Anyone Can Become Addicted. Anyone.” and “Break the Connection,” in reference to prescription opioids and heroin. The target populations are Pennsylvania parents, other caregivers, and employers.
Public-facing aspects of the campaign have included billboards, transit posters, radio ads, informational toolkits, and brochures, which were distributed via statewide marketing campaigns. PA Stop also launched a social media campaign, overseen by IRETA.
In 2016, there were more than 26,000 visits to PAStop.org.
Within eight months, PA Stop’s Facebook page grew from zero subscribers to over 1,200.
As of the end of 2016, visitors from 57 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties had downloaded materials from PAStop.org. Users include Single County Authorities, the PA Liquor Control Board, the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, community organizations, schools, employers and other interested citizens.
“PA STOP Campaign brochures are very informative and rais[e] awareness.”
“[We have received] numerous comments about ‘Anyone’–how powerful the message is.”
– PA Stop survey respondents
Grant funding for the PA Stop campaign has been renewed four times, extending through the end of 2019.
Other states have taken an interest in the campaign. Branded materials are being adapted for the use of groups outside Pennsylvania.