Darwinism, the weak die and the strong survive, is all well and good in nature. Jeepers, it’s how we got to where we are today, team!
It isn’t so great, however, when your species develops things like empathy and fairness, like us people. Then Darwinism is relabelled Eugenics and used by the Nazis to do really bad stuff. Really bad stuff.
The more I hear about this Hitler character, the less I like.
So we’re past the point at which we leave our babies on hillsides if they’re not up to mustard, Sparta style. Pats on the back all round. The next logical step in this development may be to actively help those who are less fortunate, and whaddaya know? We’re doing that too!
And what’s better than helping someone who’s a little “in the gutter?” Stopping it happening in the first place.
Public health communication.
One of many available definitions of health communication is “the art and technique of informing, influencing, and motivating individual, institutional, and public audiences about important health issues.” Don’t fool yourself – getting people firstly thinking about their health and well-being, and then actually doing something about it is an art form. When you’re dealing in the tarring-with-one-brush generalisations that come with having an audience of everyone, it can be a terrifically complicated business to hit on a technique of communication that has an impact on the entire population.
To convey a public health message in the best way possible is to somehow condense and trim what will most likely be a very complicated issue (like the outcome of an in-depth scientific paper) into both an easily understandable and attention grabbing missive. To do this effectively means combining skill sets from a plethora of fields, including – but not limited to – marketing, education, psychology, public relations and epidemiology.
Not only that, when looking at approaches to health promotion, you also need to take on what’s called the “ecological perspective”, which recognises that the health of the general public isn’t just affected by the messages that are delivered straight to them, but also by political, social and environmental factors.
With this in mind, you need to make sure you have strategies that will account for the intricacies of all these factors. At the individual level, you want a tailored message. At the community level, you’ll want a message delivered through social marketing. In the political sphere you may need advocacy from the media, and an outright media campaign will be required to get the message to the entire population.
Finally, as 15-year-old me shouting through a locked bedroom door will tell you, the nagging parent style delivery of health advice is about as useful as delivering that original scientific paper in the form of a papier mache horse for me to read. No one wants to be sternly told what’s good for them. They don’t want to be lectured by an all-knowing expert.
An audience-centred approach is a must. A two-way street of communication needs to be laid down, so you can allow the audience to not only feel involved, but give them the opportunity to clarify any confusion and ask questions on the subject. This approach also allows for the communication to be altered if it isn’t hitting its mark – a willingness to mould your campaign on the run is vital to its success. Flexibility is key.
Health communication 20 years ago was about as inexact a science as there was. While the nature of the beast means it remains somewhat mysterious even today, the analytics that are now available for online campaigns, and the successes of various recent campaigns, will mean that the recipe for success will get clearer and clearer every year.
By keeping in mind the few basics mentioned above, you’re standing on a solid platform for an effective campaign. No pressure, but the fall-back option we’ve previously had in place of getting people happy and healthy is the culling of everyone who hasn’t got blonde hair and blue eyes.
You want to play it nice or Nazi?