“Spread the facts, not the virus” – campaign is launched across Merseyside

Directors of Public Health in Cheshire and Merseyside are launching a new campaign to ensure that everyone, particularly younger people, knows the facts about what we can all do to help beat COVID-19.

The first of its kind to talk to young people, the initiative is a collaboration between the NHS and local councils in Cheshire and Merseyside. Using the channels young people engage with, the campaign aims to make the facts clear and will run for six weeks.

Research by the Government’s Behavioural Science Team  shows that young people want facts and clarity on how to do their bit. However, lack of visibility of messages and misinformation about the virus has resulted in younger people being confused and unsure what they should and can do to fight the virus.

The ‘Spread the facts’ campaign features young people working in our health care community. NHS workers, including Cristina a trainee doctor from Southport as well as other young doctors, nurses and support workers, share their experiences of working throughout the pandemic. Four videos show our medics urging their peers to get on board.

The use of bold, human stories and imagery attract attention. The adverts feature real life health care heroes who impart a nugget of fact and clearly recommend a simple behaviour that will cut the spread of the virus and stop the spread of misinformation among young people. www.spreadthefacts.co.uk holds the facts and signposts to other official sites for further reading.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat will serve stories to the target audiences. Spotify and YouTube are also included in the advertising strategy, as well as some high profile outdoor advertising sites in central Liverpool.

Matt Ashton, Director of Public Health for Liverpool and lead Director for communications and marketing said: “We know that everyone wants to beat COVID-19 and young people are no exception to this. If everyone knows the facts and does their best to help beat the virus, together we can keep everyone safe and keep the rate of infection down.

“The launch of our ‘Spread the Facts’ campaign supports our younger people to play their part. We have worked with young people to make sure this campaign talks in a way that resonates with them. It will be seen on channels that matter to young people. And it will remind us all that we need to keep going. Keeping your distance, wearing a mask, washing hands – we all need to limit who we are in contact with and look out for each other.

“I’d like to thank the young medical professionals who feature in the campaign for sharing their experiences of working throughout this pandemic. Like every NHS worker, they see the brutal impact of the virus every day. Yet still they work tirelessly to deliver the best care possible in such difficult circumstances.

“Thankfully, we are now seeing a reduction in infections in some parts of Cheshire and Merseyside over the past week. That is testament to the huge effort that everyone has made in recent weeks. Everyone has made great sacrifices. The real changes in our lifestyles shows that we now have the tools to keep this virus under control. To make sure we keep everyone safe, we just need the determination to keep going. This campaign will remind everyone to do the right things.”

Dr Oliver Dray, a 26-year-old Doctor at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and one of the young health professionals taking part in the campaign, added: “I worked in A&E throughout April to August this year. It was clear early on that COVID-19 knew no boundaries. We saw patients with severe symptoms from all walks of life and ages. Remember, there’s currently no cure. So, it really hit home when my colleague and friend, the same age as me, was struck down by the virus. He was on a ventilator for five days. It’s a real shock when the virus puts someone young in intensive care.

“Yes, the virus tends to hit older people hardest. But everybody – young and old – needs to be careful to protect themselves and each other. Compared to calling an ambulance because someone you care about can’t breathe, following the guidance is simple. Keep your distance, wear a mask, wash your hands – easy. Just limiting your contact with others stops the virus spreading. I’m sure if people had experienced what my colleagues and I had this year, they’d stick to the guidance.

“People working in the NHS are facing a pretty tough winter, physically and emotionally. This campaign makes it clear the simple things we can all do to help. If we keep doing this, we can fight the virus. I’m proud to be able to play a part. If the campaign saves one life, it will be worth it.”