Leverage social marketing segment strategy for health promotion.

Social marketing for challenging market segment successful in decreasing student smoking at Queensland University.

While historically achieving economy of effort, marketing campaigns riding traditional media have shown limited efficacy in health promotion aimed at niche market segments of society. These population groups include women, minorities, and international students (Sun, 2010).

A dilemma arises for health policy makers: how do we reach unique market segments with future health promotion campaigns? An answer was provided recently by a Queensland-based study: social marketing campaigns informed by exchange theory.

Dr. Jing Sun of Griffith University conducted an experimental health promotion campaign targeting student smokers. The strategies used, which distinguished the campaign from traditional methods of health promotion, were:
1. Engage target community prior to commencement of the health promotion activities and secure consent and support for upcoming activities.
2. Ensure not only that health information is disseminated, but also that the information is used by the target audience.
3. Utilise local communication methods such as broadcast, emails, newsletters, promotional events and pre-existing websites.
4. Localise distribution of information and increase ease of access to positive health behaviours such as exercise.
5. Encourage maintenance of the positive behaviour change by establishing an environment supportive of changes (Sun, 2010).
The voluntary and interactive nature of this approach meant it catered to the idiosyncrasies of members of the public unreceptive to traditional methods of health promotion.

The results indicated a 6.4 per cent reduction in student smoking over a two-month period. This was observed alongside a dramatic increase in awareness of the harmful effects of smoking, an increase in disapproval of smoking and a significant numbers of student smokers quitting as a result of promotional activities (Sun, 2010).

Lessons from the findings:
· Future health promotion campaigns targeting population groups unreceptive to traditional media may benefit from more interactive community-based promotional activities, such as social marketing. Four additional Queensland Health priority areas that may benefit from these findings are: obesity, nutrition, mental health and exercise. These are outlined in Queensland Health’s 2009-2010 Self-Reported Health Status: Key Findings fact sheet (2011) among other target behaviours.
· The promotion and support of healthy behaviours, while concurrently discouraging harmful behaviours, reduces the chance of previous harmful behaviours returning. Additionally, changes to an environment which support the maintenance of positive behaviour change increases the effectiveness of health promotion after the campaign ends.
Conclusion:
While the traditional media has been effectively used by health promotion campaigns in the past, there have always been members of society who are either not receptive to such communication, or simply do not engage with traditional media in the first place.
In the current media environment, audiences are bombarded by invasive and ever more sophisticated commercial marketing campaigns. Health promotion is bound to become lost in the ocean of products, celebrity, controversy and all the other things one could do without. However, positive health messages must be the communication that triumphs. The improvement of society and influence of related campaigns is the greatest priority. In order to achieve this, innovation and adoption of best practices informed by latest research is imperative. It must learn, react and implement before a tobacco company discovers some new loophole in legislation or a fast food chain identifies some market segment remaining pristine.
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Sufficient unto the moment is the appearance of reality.”
– D. H. Lawrence (Favell, 1993)
Thomas Mort
References
Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Social Marketing Approach in Smoking Cessation and Promoting Health in Australian University Students
Dr. Jing Sun & Prof. Nicholas Buys, School of Public Health, Griffith
University, QLD, 2010 International Nonprofit & Social marketing Conference
(INSM) Conference Proceedings
Dictionary of Proverbs and their Origins
Linda & Roger
Flavell, Kyle Cathie Limited, 1993.
Queensland Health, 2009-2010 Self-Reported Health Status: Key Findings Fact sheet,
Queensland Health, Brisbane, 2011

Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight

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