Social marketing as health intervention: A profitable partnership

Your marketing staff can help patients with preventative care and disease management.

A few years ago, researchers in Baltimore teamed up with their city’s Experience Corps (EC), a volunteer program that recruits adults who are 55 or older to volunteer in the public schools to tutor and mentor children.

The EC mainly focuses on increasing literacy among children who are in kindergarten through 3rd grade. However, the researchers in this study did not focus on measuring the children’s reading outcomes. They were focused on measuring the older adults’ health outcomes.

The older adults who participated in the study were not told that by volunteering in the schools they could improve their own health through increased physical, cognitive, and social activity. Instead, involvement in the program was marketed to potential participants as a way to make a difference in the next generation.

Share your wisdom

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, used a variety of marketing outreach tools to reach their target demographic. They recruited 155 participants using the taglines “Share your wisdom,” and “Do you want to make a difference?”

The study concluded that “public health interventions embedded in civic engagement have the potential to engage older adults who might not respond to a direct appeal to improve their health.”

In the discussion of their results, the researchers advocated a social marketing approach as a “potential ‘win-win’ situation for both older adults and society. EC demonstrates how marketing principles could be used to guide future health policy initiatives based on older adult national and community service.”

Social marketing can be used as a health intervention

If you’re a hospital or clinic marketing director, this study provides a way to make your department even more valuable to your organization. Most of us in healthcare marketing have recently experienced budget reductions and the “do-more-with-less” talk.

This study is a valuable reminder that social marketing can be used as a health intervention. Health care reform firmly plants preventive care models as key components within cost-saving structures. Marketing directors, whose departments may be under scrutiny as discussions of reform take place in their organization, should take heart in the Baltimore study, and use it to affirm the position within their organizations that marketing skills are essential to engage patients and improve health care outcomes.

The social marketing approach demonstrates that marketing staffs are not just an appendage to the core mission of hospitals or clinics, but are a vital resource to help engage patients and cost-effectively promote preventative care and disease management.

Jean Kelso Sandlin, EdD, is a senior strategist for Hive Strategies and assistant professor of communication at California Lutheran University. This post first appeared in the Hive Strategies blog here.


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