Public Health England is to step up its use of data to push key messages in a more targeted and sophisticated way.

According to Sheila Mitchell, Marketing Director of the government body, it has proved difficult to make public health information and advice appealing on social media.

However, the organisation believes the platform’s potential for enabling content to go viral should be harnessed.

As a result, it intends to use data more heavily to target people with campaigns based around issues such as healthy living, drinking and smoking.

“You will see a big focus on optimally using data, targeting and digital engagement – what will that look like?” she commented.

Another area Public Health England plans to look at more closely in 2017 is mobile apps, following the success of the Sugar Smart app this year.

The app was successful both in pushing key messages around healthy eating and in being genuinely useful to parents, as it enabled them to see how much sugar certain products contained.

Public Health England therefore hopes to devise another digital tool that is equally successful and capable of reaching people who might not use advanced technology for health purposes.

A fitness app is one of the ideas currently on the table, to help people measure the impact of their daily physical activity.

“It’s not a world of FItbit, but more people are doing ten minutes of brisk walking a day,” Ms Mitchell said.

“How do you measure brisk, as opposed to people doing power walking?”

Ms Mitchell added that Public Health England’s target audience consists of people who do not download commercial apps.

This, she said, means its apps must be free at the point of use and “really simple and digestible” for users.

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