Research: Many reasons cited for high obesity rates - Pt. 4
365antigua.com is serializing an important research paper entitled Social Marketing: Examining the Effects of Marketing Healthy Lifestyles in the Antiguan Society by Yvelle Charles-Jenkins. Read Part 1 and here's Part 2 and 3:
Health Related Social Marketing
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The concept of lifestyle (explained earlier) also encompasses social, physical and psychological components. This suggests that the relationship between lifestyle and health can be regulated by adjusting similar factors within an individual’s social environment. Lyon and Langville describe a healthy lifestyle as “a valuable resource for reducing the incidence and impact of health problems, for coping with life stressors and for improving quality of life.” They further suggest that “peoples’s lifestyles are significant contributors to their physical health, psycho-social health and well-being”. It should be noted that a person’s lifestyle does not only contribute to his/her own health but also to that of others within their social environment. For example, The National Cancer Institute reports that in the US, second-hand smoke cause death by lung cancer in about 3000 non smokers annually.
Hence, although lifestyles are generally based on individual choices, decisions (e.g. increased physical activity, better nutrition, recycling and safe sex) should be made both for individual benefit and that of the wider society. Convincing individuals to make conscientious health decisions not only for their benefit but for the long term benefit of the wider society is complex. Health-related social marketing plays an essential role in facilitating this process. Health-related social marketing is “the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals to improve heath and reduce health inequalities”. Similar to Social Marketing programmes directed at recycling, ocean sustainability among others, programme design may be geared towards influencing health choices. Health messaging has traditionally taken an educational approach. This approach delivers facts in an effort to change belief and assumes that individuals will do the right thing, if they understand why they need to do it. The educational approach has met with limited success.
In an effort to encourage awareness and increase self breast examinations and mammograms, the campaign highlighted factual risk factors including familial history of breast cancer.
Target audiences although aware of the message either misinterpret it or are not motivated to take heed. Much like the patterns highlighted earlier, target audiences were aware but could not perceive enough of a threat to be moved to take action. An example of this response to an educational approach occurred in a breast cancer awareness campaign by the National Cancer Institute. In an effort to encourage awareness and increase self breast examinations and mammograms, the campaign highlighted factual risk factors including familial history of breast cancer. As a result many women interpreted the message as only needing to adopt the suggested practices if they had familial history of breast cancer. Those without familial history saw no reason to adopt the said practices.
The National Cancer Institute reports that a large number of women with breast cancer had no risk factors. Brown et al. suggest that about 75% of breasts cancers occur in those women. Using a Social Marketing approach they were able to formulate a comprehensive social marketing plan called the Florida Cares for Women Project. This plan employed the 4 P’s2 concept to increase use of breast and cervical cancer screening services by women in general, placing special emphasis on assisting uninsured and underinsured women. Social marketing has been used extensively in the quest to reverse sedentary lifestyles and alarming rates of obesity especially in children. Examples include programmes such as the VERB tm. These programmes use social marketing to promote physical activity and proper nutrition as fun and attractive rather than as a means to reduce obesity and chronic disease. In addition, they tackle issues from an ecological perspective, enlisting the help of family, community and society in order to realize their objectives.
An ecological approach to health-related marketing helps motivate individuals by reducing external determinants at home and in the wider community. Challenging these levels increases awareness and encourages participation from other organizations such as schools and governments. The VERB campaign although very successful has been heavily criticized for excluding parents and teachers from its target segment. As a result, when government funding for this programme dwindled, it proved difficult to obtain funding from other sectors of society. Devine and Lepisto (2005) report that sales trends for healthy products suggest a continuous and strong growth rate well into the future. Increased health awareness, influenced by social marketing movements has resulted in greater demand for healthy products. As a result, fast food giants like McDonalds and Applebees are forced to provide healthier food options. This is a small step towards improving the health of the wider society.
*** Read the full paper on Yvelle Charles-Jenkins's exploratory research on obesity in Antigua and Barbuda by clicking here ***