This Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with NHS Lothian was the first in its geographical and disciplinary area. Culminating in a month-long campaign using six communications platforms, its central objective was to improve population awareness of mouth cancer in the Lothian region.

As with many other cancers, public awareness of mouth cancer drives early presentation, diagnosis and treatment, which are key to improving mortality rates and reducing service burden.

Bringing together clinicians, health strategists and designers from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), this project explored how improving population awareness of mouth cancer might be achieved through the application of communication design strategies focusing on the basic symptoms of the disease.

The month-long A Word of Mouth Campaign launched on the 1st of November 2011, seeking to positively engage the public through event participation, including the taking of portraits in exchange for dialogue and supporting information.


“The KTP project in collaboration with ECA was a huge success for NHS Lothian. The project demonstrated the value of a more personal and socialised model of communication and research in the arena of patient care. The project led to tangible benefits for patients and a true transfer of knowledge, via the associate, into the NHS.”

Professor Victor Lopes PhD FRCS, Consultant Surgeon, NHS Lothian

Working in a KTP enabled staff and students from the Graphic Design programme at ECA to gain full access to services, clinical teams and patients to better understand the ‘true’ pathways and needs of the Head and Neck Directorate in NHS Lothian.

Six key platforms were used in A Word of Mouth Campaign - print media, a campaign website, social media, news media, street conversations and community screening clinics - collectively reaching over 138,410 individuals. Existing symptom awareness information was re-designed into accessible key statements upheld across all platforms; likewise the campaign branding was simple and accessible.

Engagement and participation included 11 photographers and over 30 NHS clinicians taking to Edinburgh’s streets to capture the collective face of a mouth cancer awareness campaign, with images and quotes projected in St Andrew’s Square at the climax of the campaign.

The project was part sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board and its activities were supported by external partners, including MEHIS (Minority Ethnic Health Inclusion Service) and The Ben Walton Trust.

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