Superior Use of Billboards

Superior Use of Billboards
Superior Use of Billboards

The ‘Healthy Citizen’ campaign, a recent project of the Health Ministry implemented by the Tehran Municipality has apparently drawn a lot of attention.

Tehran ushered in the year 2016 with health slogans in various graphic formats on billboards across the city aimed at one particular goal: changing unhealthy lifestyles that are responsible for the large number of preventable deaths.

Annually, 38 million people globally die due to non-communicable diseases developed as a direct result of unhealthy lifestyles, with nearly three-quarters (28 million) in low and middle-income countries, including Iran.

The campaign focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, reducing obesity, prevention methods for diseases like cancer and AIDS, by displaying informative messages such as encouraging people to cut smoking and consumption of excess salt, fat, and sugar, and tips on how to shun harmful habits and embrace healthy lifestyles.

Managing director of the Iranian HIV/AIDS Research Center, Zahra Bayat Jozani, said the messages encouraged a large number of people to get screened or to seek information on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, the Islamic Azad University’s news agency ANA, reported.

“The publicity seems to have paid off as the number of people visiting our center exceeded the normal average per day by a big margin.” If the duration of such campaigns are extended, or are implemented more frequently, they could play a momentous role in preventing risky behavior and help reduce non-communicable diseases.

Based on data from the center, a total of 30,000 HIV-infected people have been identified in Iran and 90,000 others are feared to carry the virus without being aware of it.

The campaign not surprisingly had its fair share of opponents given that 400 urban billboards were prised from the business and advertising community during the 10-day run in Tehran -- the country’s economic, political, and business capital.

Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi told IRNA that the billboards were long being used for inapt advertisements that basically promoted consumerism. Dodging major social problems such as AIDS and drug addiction will not lead to positive changes in the society, he warned.

Taking stock of the growing burden of AIDS, Hashemi said, “Once thought of as a European or America disease, it has now found its way into our country, and addressing it openly is the only way to tackle it.”

“Objections against such campaigns are rife with personal, economic and political motives,” he said without elaboration. The entire subject of AIDS and HIV is considered taboo in Iran, especially in and among traditional families and communities.

The minister called for allocating a specific number of urban billboards to health issues on a permanent basis.


As the campaign was deemed successful and saw great public reception, deputy health minister for social affairs and NGOs, Mohammad Hadi Ayazi, said the project would be extended to other major cities.

“During meetings with officials from Karaj, Tabriz, and Ahvaz, they expressed interest in the plan,” he said, the public relations office at the Tehran Beautification Organization reported.

He recalled similar initiatives previously conducted in Tehran, such as the campaign entitled ‘A Gallery as Big as a City’ last May, displaying copies of a total of 700 domestic and foreign artworks including reproductions of traditional Persian miniatures, carpets, and calligraphy on more than 1,500 billboards across the sprawling capital for ten days.

“One big difference is that the audience for that campaign mainly comprised a specific social group, while the ‘Healthy Citizen’ campaign targets the general public.”

Such efforts will be extended to other fields including mental, psychological, and social health in the near future.