‘Life Unites Us’ campaign announces year one findings from DDAP partnership

Pennsylvania State University

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Life Unites Us campaign, an evidence-based approach to reducing the stigma of opioid use disorder (OUD), has announced findings from its first year.

A survey of Pennsylvanians who had viewed the campaign found a greater willingness to live with someone and continue a relationship with a friend experiencing OUD. Pennsylvanians also expressed a higher willingness to give naloxone to friends and family members of people who have OUD, as well as an openness to having opioid treatment centers near their homes.

The campaign is a partnership among Penn State Harrisburg’s Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research, The Public Good Projects (PGP), Shatterproof, and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP).

The one-year follow-up survey also revealed the following findings:

  • 80% of respondents who viewed the campaign agreed that the opioid epidemic is a serious problem in their community; compared to 61.9% of respondents who did not view the campaign.

  • 39% of respondents who viewed the campaign agreed that buprenorphine, medication-assisted treatment for OUD, is effective; compared to 25.8% of respondents who did not view the campaign.

  • 35% of respondents who viewed the campaign agreed that their local government has strong policies to support people with OUD; compared to 17.2% of respondents who did not view the campaign.

  • 61% of respondents who viewed the campaign agreed that their community has programs to help people with OUD; compared to 38.2% of respondents who did not view the campaign.

“The reach, exposure and partner engagement of the campaign during the first year was incredible and exceeded our expectations. Utilizing an evidence-based approach, rigorous ongoing mixed-methods research techniques, and continuous feedback from community stakeholders allowed our team to evaluate levels of stigma throughout the state,” said Weston Kensinger, director of the Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research, associate teaching professor of health education at Penn State Harrisburg, and advisory board member of the Social Science Research Institute‘s Consortium on Substance Use and Addiction.

“After just one year of the campaign, we discovered significant positive outcomes and that we’re moving the needle in the right direction to reduce substance use disorder stigma,” Kensinger continued. “Positive changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that reduce stigma do not occur by accident or through the efforts of siloed stakeholders. Our entire team is looking forward to continuing this important life-saving work as the campaign progresses, engaging with additional stakeholders across the state to reduce stigma, provide needed resources, and ultimately save lives.”

“For decades, stigma has cast a shadow over people battling substance use disorder, and their families, and that must change,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “We are thrilled that within the first year of this campaign, attitudes have improved toward medication-assisted treatment, harm reduction tactics, and overall views of individuals struggling with this disease. We know there is still work to be done, and we are looking forward to continuing this critical work, with these great partners, and expanding the scope of the Life Unites Us campaign.”

Launched in September 2020, the Life Unites Us campaign uses social media to share stories of people and their families dealing with OUD. It also hosts webinars to share tools and information on how to effectively reduce stigma, and it keeps an interactive data dashboard to track the campaign’s progress.

Nearly four million Pennsylvanians were reached with information and messaging to encourage stigma reduction in the first year of the campaign. Over 200 people in recovery, as well as their family members, recorded testimonials for the campaign, which were then shared on the campaign’s website and social media channels. In addition, the campaign hosted 12 webinars with over 1,200 participants on a variety of topics related to stigma reduction.

To see the full broadcast of the announcement, visit DDAP’s website

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