This is Not About Cancer: How do we get consumers interested in their health?

Jan 19

Cancer: Everything causes it and a cure is always further away than we hope.

Public health graduate studies led me to believe (initially) that all public health is about cancer. Though these days I try to worry less about cancer (only because there are so many professional worriers—those whose life pursuit is the cure for cancer), and more about consumer engagement and industry transparency.

The problem is, of course that one cannot be engaged, nor enlightened by quality measures if their health is irrelevant to them until they fall ill. As social marketers we need them to be aware first, and then we can nudge them into contemplating, deciding and acting—actual behavior change. To that end, we are hard at work developing innovative consumer awareness and education campaigns.

We are also hard at work building infrastructure and partnerships to ensure that thought leadership is also innovative and relevant—so our campaigns are both high impact and highly informed.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey notes, “The new public health operates out front, in the full light of day, connecting the dots, building partnerships, and creating collaborative relationships that reach far into every corner of the community.

This quote is from RWJF’s NewPublicHealth.org, a website targeting public health professionals to “spark an ongoing conversation about public health challenges, opportunities, evidence, solutions and innovations.”

It includes public health news, commentary and updates at all levels, and features veteran reporters, public health officials, noted researchers and academics, association heads and the public health leaders in the U.S. government.

I hope it realizes its potential to become the “pulse” of the public health field and moves people to act and take the professional risks necessary to create real change.

However, I confess that when I’d first heard of NewPublicHealth I thought it was going to be consumer-targeted. And I was excited about it. But for the average consumer getting excited about health means they need to relate and be entertained. There are non-traditional public health advocates, and some vilified by public health purists who are changing the face of public health.

Instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University and CeaseFire Illinois, we could have DiscoveryHealth, Disney, YMCA and, gasp, maybe even MTV setting the stage and starting the conversation. Did you know that MTV’s “It’s Your [Sex] Life” campaign won a Peabody?

For future blog posts, I’m going to start featuring these game changers.  Let’s face it, this crew is a lot more exciting than public health leaders and researchers. Maybe even interesting enough to make consumers think of their health as more than non-cancer.

So what do you think? Who would you invite to this consumer-targeted health site? Who do you think I should feature in my next blog post?

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 11:13 am and is filed under Behavior Change, Public Health, Resources, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “This is Not About Cancer: How do we get consumers interested in their health?”

  1. Dominique says:

    I agree that more needs to be done to engage consumers in their health. I would love to see companies that have a greater reach to young people create and focus on larger campaigns to engage them in healthier behaviors. I feel that MTV has focused more lately on driving political awareness among young people (also important)but would love to see more focus on health.

  2. Karen says:

    Thanks for your comment, Dominique! It didn’t occur to me that MTV may be doing more on political awareness–likely because I’m so focused on public health on a daily basis. It’s good to have a a fresh perspective! Needless to say, MTV does a lot of interesting public health related work, so perhaps a sign I should profile them soon.

  3. Dana Allen-Greil says:

    If you’re intrigued by the MTV’s “It’s Your (Sex) Life” (which has been going for 15 years!), I’d encourage you to check out other campaigns that the Kaiser Family Foundation has worked on including BET’s “Rap It Up” and partnerships with Univision and Fox. http://kff.org/entpartnerships/ (Full disclosure: I used to work for KFF.)

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks, Dana! I am familiar with KFF’s good work–but more from my graduate school studies. Now’s the time to get into it from a applied/professional perspective. Thanks for the reminder!