Department of Medicine

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute
Quantum One Building
Suite E290
2 Hot Metal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Administrative/ Research Office: (412) 864-0157
Patient/ Clinical Inquiries:
(412) 586-9700

"Is There a Killer in Your Family?"
Diabetes Prevention Awareness Campaign


Although the development and deployment of public awareness campaigns is common practice in providing visibility for an array of health problems, both the methodologies used in the development of these campaigns and the data measuring their effectiveness is limited. Additionally, most diabetes public awareness campaigns have focused solely on educating consumers about diabetes prevention instead of driving them to identify their risk and take action.

The University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute's objective, therefore, was to use a systemic approach for creating a diabetes prevention campaign in order to drive individuals directly to an online risk assessment. More specifically, the campaign targeted adults aged 25-54 in both urban Pittsburgh and rural southwestern Pennsylvania who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Research Phases

In order to fully understand our target audience, it was imperative to understand the social and historical trends that precipitated the high incidence of diabetes in southwestern PA over the last decade. It was also crucial to better understand the lifestyles and interests of our two seemingly distinct target audiences (urban and rural) in an effort to leverage any commonalities that may exist. The latter was accomplished by combining a geodemographic segmentation analysis with Scarborough consumer research.

Interestingly, several commonalities did exist, including a universally high: use of lottery tickets and games of chance, TV viewership, sports, gardening, bowling and fast food. These commonalities revealed two important findings: our target audience had an affinity for objects of high tangibility and had a limited capacity to tolerate a lack of immediacy.

Additionally, while this was not a campaign to motivate long-term behavior change, it was important to understand the influence of the leading social behavior change (Self Determination Theory) and behavioral economic theories that have been used in post-diagnosis diabetes education.

What was found was that the key elements of Self Determination Theory and Behavioral Economics were closely aligned—particularly as they relate to health decisions.

Killer Campaign Chart

Campaign Creative

The "Is There a Killer in Your Family?" campaign ran over eight weeks in the fall of 2009. Campaign media included television, radio, outdoor, transit and web advertising. Based on the research, the campaign was intentionally blind to ensure the participants were autonomous in their participation and because we knew that we could not rely on our consumers’ perception of their own risk for diabetes to motivate their decision to take the risk assessment. Additionally, the campaign was focused on the concept of family to maximize the key notion of relatedness amongst our target audience and to illicit an immediate consumer reaction of concern for their family.

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Campaign Results

In the eight-week period, over 64,000 individuals visited the campaign website and nearly 40,000 completed the risk assessment. Of those who completed the risk assessment, 75% were between the ages of 18-54, 89% were Caucasian and 6% African American, 55% were male, and 74% received a moderate or high diabetes risk score.

A follow-up study revealed that 51% went on to take some action following the risk assessment.

To learn more about the campaign, please contact Michelle Faderewski at or 412-864-0162.