Alzheimer’s disease has always had trouble attracting as much attention in mainstream media as other medical conditions. It is a long-term, degenerative condition, which tends only to afflict people once they reach old age. The tangible effects of the condition are largely experienced in the home or nursing home, away from public view. However, it is one of the most common forms of dementia and the effects of can be utterly devastating for both patients and their families or carers.
Cases of dementia are set to rise massively over the coming years as the result of an ageing population. The latest figures show there are an estimated 35.6m worldwide with dementia and this figure is set to nearly double in the next two decades. This will place phenomenal pressures on both families of patients and health systems.
In recent months, the healthcare industry’s commitment to tackling Alzheimer’s has been questioned. Roche appears to be closest to developing a compound, which aims to catch the disease in its early stages, however many of the big players have experienced disappointing results in clinical trials and are now looking at alternative approaches. The UK Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK have both expressed concerns that firms are effectively ‘giving up’ on trying to find a cure for the disease due to the costs of further failed trials.
It is with this in mind that Alzheimer’s Disease International launched one of the most innovative health awareness campaigns we have seen this year to mark World Alzheimer’s Day on Friday 21st September. The charity asked Facebook users to ‘donate’ their profiles for this date. The user’s timeline would then be erased for 24 hours as an example of “virtual memory loss” and replaced with the message ““Imagine your life without memories. For 36 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease, this is reality.” The campaign was also accompanied by a very touching video.
While this was a great online campaign, it could have perhaps benefitted from an integrated offline media strategy. This would have both increased the potential target audience and helped to create a more harmonised user journey across media channels. Indeed, such a clever Facebook app could well have attracted attention from technology and online media publications. Finally, the strict time limit of the campaign means that the simple yet well-designed website has lost much of its functionality and relevance.
Nonetheless, this was a worthy and innovative campaign, demonstrating how, with a little courage and imagination, healthcare issues can be brought to the attention of a large number of people in unorthodox ways.