Once the coronavirus pandemic had essentially shut down society, the biobank had to find new ways to reach out to citizens and to increase awareness of biobank sample collection and research.
We managed to organize the three events scheduled in the annual calendar. These events took the form of a fair in the lobby of the Meilahti Tower Hospital and events at the clinics and on the wards of Meilahti Hospitals. At these events, we provided training sessions where both employees and the general public could listen to medical lectures and talks on biobank research.
By early March, it was becoming clear that events could not go on as usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, so we set up a virtual living room on the Helsinki Biobank website, and it was there that we held the March event, Saavutettavasti sinulle [Accessible for you]. The collecting of biobank consents and samples also changed fundamentally.
Coronavirus forced change of plan in collecting consents
In the spring, we launched the nationwide Annatko luvan [Do you give permission?] campaign. This campaign was aimed at people secluded at home because of the restrictions, and implemented in a new way unusual for a public authority. The campaign was run jointly with MTV and several other partners. President Tarja Halonen was the patron of the event.
Campaign spots were run on TV 120 times during two weeks and were seen by 1,878,000 viewers. At the same time, an ad was broadcast on radio on 18 channels for three weeks. During that period, the Helsinki Biobank also maintained a conspicuous presence in social media, in outdoor advertising around Helsinki and on the media wall of the Music Centre. During the month of the campaign, nearly 6,000 citizens gave their consent to donate a sample to the Helsinki Biobank.
In the autumn, we ran a regional campaign, Koskettaa jokaista [Reaches everyone], the purpose of which was to boost sample collecting in the HUS Specific Catchment Area. However, this limited regional campaign did not mobilize citizens to give their consent like the previous campaign in the spring had done. Although we fell short of our goal in the number of samples collected during the year, we did achieve considerable positive visibility and awareness and did manage to collect consents in difficult, challenging circumstances.