“Dear16-year old Me”

Demographic targeting, or communicating with a specific audience comprised of individuals who share common characteristics, is a strategy often used in cancer screening or prevention campaigns. With targeting, the audience is more likely to pay attention, comprehend, and discuss the information with others, which can ultimately help encourage behavior change.  A example of demographic targeting is this online campaign I came across called  “Dear 16 year-old Me.”

“Dear 16-year old Me” online campaign (see video below) was developed by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund charity organization to promote melanoma awareness and prevention in youths.  Melanoma is a form of skin cancer, which, if not treated early, can lead to death. In Canada, it is estimated that 5,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma and 970 of them will die from the disease. Statistics for melanoma also reveal that the lifetime probability of men developing skin cancer is 1 in 67, and for women it is 1 in 85.  According to WHO, UV radiation exposure from the sun and indoor tanning equipment is a known carcinogen or cancer causing agent.  Thus, taking preventive measures such as avoiding indoor tanning equipment, and reducing and protecting oneself from sun exposure can significantly reduce the risk of melanoma. However, according to the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund organization, many people do not recognize the seriousness of skin damage caused by exposure to UV radiation, particularly during the early years. Despite increasing public awareness, skin cancer preventive behaviours are often ignored and not taken seriously until later in life by which point the adverse effect of sun exposure has already begun to accumulate.  To that end, the online campaign was created with the intent to educate and encourage self-check and preventive measures among the target audience, i.e., 16 year-old youth.


Overall, I think this is a well-produced targeted communication campaign. It grabs the audiences attention, it is personally relevant, and addresses the specific health needs important to the target population. By targeting, the campaign eliminates any exposure to unneeded information. Furthermore, by using theoretical constructs of the Precaution Adoption Process Model (a change theory), the message is more useful in eliciting behaviour change in the target audience. The Precaution Adoption Process Model specifies seven stages in the journey from lack of awareness to maintenance of behaviour, including preventive behaviour. After watching the video, it is clear that the targeted material attempts to transition the audience through the seven stages of behaviour change. Specifically, the stages the target audience must pass through before taking the risk of developing melanoma serious enough to maintain preventive behaviour include:

  • Unawareness
  • Awareness but unengaged
  • Engaged and deciding to act
  • Planning to act
  • Decided to act
  • Acting
  • Maintenance

At the maintenance stage, it is hoped that the audience is inspired to take preventive actions and make self-check as part of their regular routine. Such behaviour is crucial to early detection and positive outcomes.While this is my take of the online campaign, what did you think of it?


Canadian Cancer Society. (2012). Statistics for melanoma. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/statistics/?region=pe

David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. (2003). What is melanoma. Retrieved from http://dcmf.ca

Parvanta C, Nelson DE, Parvanta SA, Harner RN. Essentials of Public Health Communication. Mississauga, Ontario: Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2011. ISBN 978‐0‐7637‐7115‐7.

World Health Organization. (2013).  Health effects of UV radiation. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/uv/health/en/


-N Sandhu




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