We’re working toward a world where where everyone is protected by a strong public health system.


What does public health system strengthening look like?

It’s a celebration in Hanoi as smoke-free public places are adopted by law.

It’s a smiling mother in Myanmar as her baby girl receives the family’s first-ever birth certificate.

It’s the satisfaction of a researcher knowing she has helped find a better way to treat multi-drug resistant turberculosis.

Our Approach

Three pillars of rapid 
and sustained impact

Vital Strategies’ distinct approach drives rapid progress and builds strong public health systems.

Our approach has three interconnected pillars:

  • Public Health Intelligence
  • Strategic Communication and Advocacy
  • Institutional Strengthening

Public Health Intelligence

Effective public health relies on robust data and rigorous analysis geared toward decision making. We call this public health intelligence. Only with accurate knowledge of what is driving death and disease can governments intervene effectively and measure progress.

For instance, in Brazil, a Vital Strategies-supported effort to improve how causes of death are recorded is leading to better information that can improve public health. Often, doctors record immediate causes of death, such as “respiratory arrest” on death certificates. Training doctors to assign an underlying cause of death, such as “atherosclerotic heart disease” provides more specific, actionable information to governments wishing to invest in life-saving prevention and treatment measures.

In partnership with the Ministry of Health, Vital Strategies supported investigative research in 60 cities which showed that up to 90% of ill-defined deaths examined could be reclassified to causes that better inform public policy and planning. This success prompted Brazil to extend the program to areas with the poorest quality data. An innovative smart phone-based training program to assist doctors to improve their coding practices has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

This example from our Civil Registration and Vital Statistics work reflects our commitment to strengthen governments’ public health intelligence as the foundation of all public health practice. All of our programs incorporate this approach, from building surveillance systems to conducting health impact assessments to improving data use.

An innovative smart phone-based training program to assist doctors to improve their coding practices has already been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

Strategic Communication and Advocacy

Clear and impactful communication is critical to the functioning of any public health program, whether the goal is to change harmful behaviors among a population, promote new policies, or manage public information in a health crisis. Vital Strategies’ proprietary communication process and toolkit – the Breakthrough model – uses cutting edge behavioral research, emotional storytelling and effective delivery to create impact.

For instance, in India, popular chewing tobacco products such as gutka are believed by many to be beneficial to health – even as a tooth-cleaner and breath freshener. They are used by hundreds of millions of people, when, in fact, they are a public health menace, causing India to have the world’s highest rates of neck and mouth cancers. In conjunction with Ministry of Health of India, leading cancer doctors, and tobacco victims, Vital Strategies launched the country’s first national campaign against chewing tobacco use. The campaign showed the visceral suffering of gutka’s victims, reached hundreds of millions of people, built support for new anti-tobacco policies, and drove millions to quit chewing at the cost of only around US $2.60 per lifetime quitter.

Across all of our issues, Vital Strategies sees opportunities to grow support for effective public health strategies inside and outside government. We know how to motivate and mobilize people to take action to improve their health. Working with governments and civil society, Vital Strategies helps develop, launch and manage media campaigns that promote behavior change and advance protective policies. Our in-country experts and partners liaise directly with governments to create localized messages and dissemination plans. More than two billion people have seen a Vital Strategies-supported campaign.

India’s First National Campaign Against Chewing Tobacco Use Has Reached Hundreds of Millions and Built Support for New Anti-Tobacco Policies, Driving Millions to Quit at the Cost of $2.60.

Institutional Strengthening

Public health systems depend upon strong institutions and workforces. Vital Strategies works to build lasting changes in knowledge, procedures, and practices, among governments and health institutions.

Public policy — laws, regulations, ordinances — is the most effective instrument to improve population health and Vital Strategies brings deep experience in this arena. For governments to develop and enact good policies they need expertise across a variety of disciplines, especially in areas such as legal analysis, policy development, and regulatory enforcement.

We’ve trained over 5,100 health workers from 136 countries in health development and public health practice, and we have provided expert input into laws designed to prevent health problems, such as a sugary beverage tax to combat obesity and packaging regulations for tobacco products.

Building Capacity Within Some of the World’s Most Challenging Environments to Mount Clinical Trials for Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis.

A Case Study of the Vital Strategies Approach

Controlling Tobacco: On Pace to Kill a Billion People this Century.

When governments take up good policies they can dramatically reduce this burden by keeping young people from starting smoking and supporting smokers and tobacco users to quit. The best policies are laid out in the World Health Organization’s MPOWER package and the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. Even with this roadmap, progress is not easy, especially with the vigorous opposition of the powerful tobacco industry. Vital Strategies’ approach supports government adoption of the critical MPOWER measures in dozens of countries around the globe.

Public Health Intelligence

Vital Strategies supports the systematic collection and analysis of tobacco use and public attitudes. This helps governments understand the shape of the epidemic, how to best apply policies, and how to use media to move millions to quit.

Our groundbreaking study on consumer attitudes across ten countries.

Strategic Communication 
and Advocacy

Behavior change campaigns – on TV, on radio, on social media and across billboards – drive millions to quit and build public demand for protective policies. For instance, innovative, tested campaigns use effective storytelling, public relations and social media to engage the “silent majority” of nonsmokers to support new laws banning smoking indoors.

How we create effective anti-tobacco TV campaigns.

Institutional Strengthening

We’re informing governments to develop stronger policies through groundbreaking research, such as documenting which types of graphic warnings on tobacco packs most effectively communicate the harms of smoking, or what identifying measures that governments are using to sustain mass media campaigns. The result is that we see Ministries of Health enforcing stronger tobacco pack regulations and tens of millions more people exposed to powerful media campaigns.

Our Media Beacon is an online resource of best practice tobacco control graphic warning images and campaign materials.

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