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The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) Go to site home page About the Task Force


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The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services

Together, the Community Guide and the Clinical Guide provide evidence-based recommendations across the prevention spectrum.


Health Communication and Social Marketing

Finger touching the screen of a digital tablet.

Health communication is defined as the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health (NCI 2001) External Web Site Icon.

  • The scope of health communication includes disease prevention, health promotion, health care policy, and the business of health care as well as enhancement of the quality of life and health of individuals within the community.
  • Health communication considers a variety of channels to deliver its targeted or tailored messages to specific segments among varied audiences, including individuals, communities, health professionals, special groups, and policy makers.

Social marketing is the use of strategic marketing practices “…to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience” (Kotler & Andreasen, 2003).

  • Social marketing is customer centered and focuses on three major decisions: segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Guided by these decisions, the “marketing mix” (or 4 Ps of marketing: place, price, product and promotion) is developed to produce the desired responses in the target markets.
  • Eight established benchmark criteria have been widely accepted as essential components of social marketing efforts: consumer orientation, insight, behavioral objectives, segmentation, exchange, competition, marketing mix, and theory.

Task Force Recommendations and Findings

This table lists an intervention reviewed by the Community Guide, with a summary of the Task Force finding (definitions of findings). Click on an underlined intervention title for a summary of the review.

Intervention Task Force Finding
Health Communication Campaigns That Include Mass Media and Health-Related Product Distribution Recommended
December 2010

Related Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The following interventions, related to health communication campaigns, are separated by strategy. They can also can be found on the associated topic pages.

Intervention Task Force Finding
Mass Media
Preventing Skin Cancer: Mass Media Insufficient Evidence
June 2011
Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Mass Media Campaigns Recommended
June 2002
Campaigns and Informational Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Stand-Alone Mass Media Campaigns Insufficient Evidence
March 2010
Reducing Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure: Mass-Reach Health Communication Interventions Recommended
April 2013
Reducing Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure: Mass Media—Cessation Contests Insufficient Evidence
May 2000
Small Media
Increasing Cancer Screening: Small Media Targeting Clients Recommended
December 2005
Interpersonal Communication (e.g., group education, one-on-one counseling)
Increasing Cancer Screening: One-on-One Education for Clients Recommended
March 2010
Use of Child Safety Seats: Distribution and Education Programs Recommended
June 1998
Obesity Prevention and Control: Provider Education Insufficient Evidence
October 2007
Campaigns and Informational Approaches: Classroom-Based Health Education Focused on Providing Information Insufficient Evidence
October 2000
Increasing Appropriate Vaccination: Provider Education When Used Alone Insufficient Evidence
May 2015
School-Based Programs to Reduce Violence Recommended
June 2005
Comprehensive, Community-wide Approach
Preventing Skin Cancer: Multicomponent Community-Wide Interventions Recommended
April 2012
Use of Child Safety Seats: Community-Wide Information and Enhanced Enforcement Campaigns Recommended
June 1998
Prevention of Birth Defects: Community-Wide Campaigns to Promote the Use of Folic Acid Supplements Recommended
June 2004
Campaigns and Informational Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Community-Wide Campaigns Recommended
February 2001
Increasing Appropriate Vaccination: Community-Based Interventions Implemented in Combination Recommended
October 2014

Presentations and Promotional Materials

Promotional Materials

Community Guide News: Effectiveness of Health Communication Campaigns That Include Mass Media and Health-Related Product Distribution
Developed by The Community Guide

What Works – Fact Sheets

What Works: Health Communication and Social Marketing – brochure and insert Adobe PDF File [PDF - Size 831 kB]

Referenced Documents

Kotler P, Andreasen A. Strategic marketing for nonprofit organizations (6th edition). New York: Prentice-Hall; 2003.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Health communication and social marketing. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.