The implications of Healthy People 2020 for social marketing and health communication were the focus of Cynthia Baur’s plenary session at the Social Marketing in Public Health Conference. Cynthia is the the Director, Division of Health Communication and Marketing, National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I have talked about the development of social marketing, health communication and health information technology objectives for HP2020 in a number of posts. And with the deadline for submission of objectives looming in the next month, her talk was a reminder that for many social marketers and health communicators the world will be shifting in the next year or so as the US adopts a social determinants framework to health promotion, disease prevention and the elimination of heath disparities. One key point she made is:
Communication and marketing can also be analyzed and applied as social interventions, not just individual level behavior change. Communication and marketing are part of the environment in the same way that housing stock and educational facilities are.
We must start thinking about how marketing, communication and health information technologies in themselves can contribute to health and disease outcomes, as well as the disparities we see between people with unequal access to them, who cannot use and understand them, and lack the skills and resources to act on them.
We also need to shift our thinking from a focus on individuals to social networks, communities and other social groupings. She said: Determining how we as communication and social marketing professionals can affect both the disparities related to health information, products and services as well as the other social factors will be a major advancement for our fields and in the health of the public.
Over the past 18 months, Cynthia has been a co-lead of a process to determine how health communication, health IT and social marketing can contribute to the social determinants of health model of Healthy People 2020 (a process I have been participating in as well) and aid in its implementation. She listed 8 opportunities we should be talking about, planning for, and responding to over the next months and years (as well as in the next month!).
- Change the unit of analysis from individuals to social groups.
- Address communication and marketing disparities.
- Communication and social marketing can be used to build consensus about priorities to address critical social factors.
- Communication and social marketing are uniquely positioned to serve as a crosscutting framework to build communities and partnerships across organizations and health issues.
- Communication and social marketing can be used to foster citizen participation in developing solutions to everyday problems.
- Communication and social marketing can leverage the interactivity of social media to engage consumers and impact social determinants.
- Communication and social marketing can be their own interventions designed to impact different health promotion and disease prevention outcomes.
- Communication and social marketing can provide critical data on who interacts with whom, what they are and aren’t interested in and how they think their problems can be solved.
And she concluded:
…communication and social marketing have several roles and opportunities in a social determinants of health framework which are both broad and necessary. We as social marketers and health communicators must be proactive in demonstrating our capabilities to impact the fundamental factors influencing our health. As the social determinants of health framework takes on a broad inter-connected view of the systems impacting our health, we make clear that we are uniquely positioned to help facilitate the broad inter-connectivity necessary to achieve that goal. Communication and marketing professionals are equip with specialized skills, tools, and processes that allow us to build consensus around the framework; bring awareness to the framework; coordinate across health topics and areas; build and maintain partnerships; engage citizens in the process, leverage social media to impact the social factors; conduct interventions, research and evaluation to further identify the problem and solutions; and invoke policy change.
It is not too late to get involved in the development of the health communication and social marketing objectives. Register for the Healthy People 2020 Health Communication and Health Information Technology Workgroup online workspace to comment and share your ideas.