A Case Study of Lessons Learned and the Evolution of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HEADS UP Concussion in Sports Campaign


  • Kelly Sarmiento Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Rosanne Hoffman ICF International
  • Zoe Donnell ICF International
  • Bonny Bloodgood ICF International


health communication campaign, concussion, sports, pediatrics, campaign, education, brain injuries, traumatic brain injury


Traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, can change the way the brain normally works. Children aged 0 to 4 years and adolescents aged 15 to 19 years are at increased risk for sustaining TBI, including concussion. Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s)HEADS UP campaign has provided information to a range of audiences in an effort to help improve knowledge of how to recognize and respond to concussion or other serious TBIs. A national needs assessment and formative research identified the need for tailored resources on concussion to appeal to target audiences, and audience engagement and partner outreach served as the hallmark and guided the evolution of HEADS UP. Over the last 12 years, CDC obtained insights on strategies that helped grow HEADS UP, including understanding and listening to target audiences, investing in partnership development, and ensuring flexibility in the structure of the campaign to allow for unexpected growth and opportunities. CDC’s HEADS UP campaign provides a framework that can be used to inform other health communication campaigns focused on raising awareness and improving knowledge among multiple audiences to address important health issues.