A mosquito emoji for public health

Emoji are increasingly important in people’s daily communication. In 2015, the Face with Tears of Joy emoji (😂) was named Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary, and the cultural importance of emoji have only grown in the past few years.

There are emoji for animals of all kinds –­ you can text your friends using emoji for ants, spiders and ladybugs, honeybees, turtles and snails. There are emoji for taking a selfie, several types of mermaids, to symbolize breastfeeding – and, of course, the smiling poop emoji (💩).

But no emoji for the deadliest animal on the planet: the mosquito. Until now.

Marla Shaivitz, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ director of digital strategy, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have forever changed the way we communicate about mosquitoes, which represent an enormous public health threat.

Their proposal for a mosquito was accepted in February and debuted this fall on iOS and Android. Now we have an additional tool to raise public awareness and educate people around the world about the threats of malaria, Zika, dengue and more. It allows us to, with a single character that crosses language barriers, help people understand the risks posed by the mosquito – and what they can do to protect themselves. This is vital to the type of work that CCP does around the globe to help people adopt healthy behaviors.

CCP was not only instrumental in bringing the mosquito emoji to our digital lexicon. We have been able to help its creation go, well, viral. Our promotions, aided by UNICEF and other organizations, have spread the word about the new emoji and helped understand how they, too, can use this new communications tool. Our social media campaigns were seen by many thousands and Chelsea Clinton even tweeted about it to her followers!

We distributed the social media toolkit below to our partners to help spread the word.

The video below, produced by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, helped to spread the news about the mosquito emoji launch. CCP is a part of the Bloomberg School.