Reducing the Burden of Mpox


In the year since the first case of mpox was identified in the U.S., the outbreak has not been evenly distributed across the population, with the vast majority of cases occurring among men who had sexual contact with other men. People of color have been disproportionately impacted, in particular those who identify as gay or bisexual.

To better address these disparities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enlisted the Altarum-led National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) to test communication and messaging concepts related to mpox and sexual health care among priority populations, the public, and healthcare providers.


In 2023, Altarum and the NCSH began conducting a literature review and environmental scan to identify existing research, messaging, and materials related to current mpox knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors with focus on disproportionately affected populations. At the same time, we surveyed health departments and national and local community-based organizations and clinics to conduct a mpox needs assessment. Both efforts contributed to identifying and understanding the Mpox messaging needs expressed by public health professionals as well as to guiding the development and testing of new mpox messaging. 

We also established the Mpox Engagement Team (MET)—a group of sexual health physicians, epidemiologists, and program directors from across the country to help identify gaps, aid the understanding of mpox knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors across all audiences, and provide feedback on draft educational communication campaigns.


The messages and materials developed based on MET’s analysis began undergoing market testing using an interactive online qualitative research platform, with smaller, moderator-led in-depth focus groups to be completed in the near future. Altarum and NSCH will use the findings from these sessions to develop final materials that will resonate best with their intended audiences and implement a robust promotional plan to ensure their widespread adoption. 


Megan Higdon
Program Director, Sexual and Reproductive Health