As chlamydia continues to prove a problem among young people, some PCTs are turning to more innovative methods to relate to them.

It is estimated that 1 in ten sexually active young people have chlamydia. As the infection is often symptomless, many young people who aren’t in the habit of getting themselves checked out may not seek treatment. Communicating with youth markets is demanding even when promoting an appealing product, like a festival. Pitching more complex sexual health messages is much more challenging especially at time when there has never been more competition for young people’s attention, through so many diverse channels, from companies with massive marketing muscle.

Some innovative PCTs have employed youth marketing experts Don’t Panic to communicate the availability of their chlamydia screening service. Don’t Panic work with a roster of corporate clients including Playstation, 3Mobile, Orange and Christian Aid. Their unique promotions background enables them to connect with young people in an innovative peer to peer way. The agency has now applied these methods to public health campaigns, allowing them to deliver low cost acquisitions whilst ensuring a strong focus on the highest standards of clinical governance.

Meeting screening targets has vexed PCTs across the country and led to some innovative and catchy sounding incentive based initiatives like ‘Wii for a Wee.’ PCTs have tried giving away cars, holidays, iTunes vouchers or even making a charitable donation on behalf of the young person who’s taking the test. The danger of these costly schemes is that in communicating and promoting the incentive, the core health message is lost.

Don’t Panic’s outreach teams are working in Ealing and Wandsworth and at the time of writing are on course to meet their targets. They are directly engaging young people in social settings, discussing chlamydia and then offering them the chance to be screened. Don’t Panic’s teams of young people adopt a peer to peer approach and have found this a hugely successful way of engaging with this difficult to reach audience.

Through directly engaging with young people in familiar environments, this approach is not only cost effective, but also reduces the stigma surrounding sexual health testing for young people, and young men in particular.

Don’t Panic also piloted a successful scheme in Thames Valley University using Bluetooth to communicate the availability of the tests to young people in the area. It is vital when marketing to young people to reflect technology based communication. Using well designed Bluetooth messages, the team were able to communicate with a wider audience and make them aware of the availability of the free tests in their area.

Initially Don’t Panic’s outreach teams reported that most young people, whilst aware of chlamydia, were yet to take a test. Through tackling this problem directly in an appropriate setting and offering them the chance to take the test, the latest results show that this is fast changing. More and more young people are becoming aware of the importance of getting tested and also how quick and easy it is to do so.

This model’s success is also due in part to the integrated nature of the campaign: above the line advertising supported by outreach work which directly engages young people (who already have some prior knowledge) with more information, condoms and the opportunity to be screened. A multifaceted approach which includes marketing handled by youth communication experts in familiar environments, alongside a presence within the more formal settings of schools, youth clubs and GP surgeries has resulted in a these boroughs being set to reach targets and effectively reducing the stigma surrounding sexual health screening for the under 25s.