Posts Tagged health promotion

What does behavior change have to do with True Blood?

In HBO’s True Blood you gotta bring the whole bag of tricks to protect yourself from vampires, werewolves, maenads, warlocks, faeries and who knows what else is comin’. According to social marketing expert Mike Newton-Ward, if you showed up in Bon Temps with only garlic or only a wooden stake, you’d be in a whole lotta trouble.

For many issues in life, you need more than one strategy to deal. Think about rationalizing with children – different personalities and ages may need different approaches. Strong negotiators have many tactics up their sleeves, ready to pull out as needed. Consumer products companies have endless marketing and sales strategies to get us to buy. Even justifying a new shoe purchase – many women know a variety of ways to do this. So why would we think it’s enough to apply one solution, one strategy, or one event to complex, vexing social issues and public health problems, and expect much change? Or, to apply the solution or strategy or communication only one time?

These problems haven’t gone away yet for a reason. For a good discussion about this, check out Mike’s social marketing blog and his post “Stop Looking for a Silver Bullet! We need Wooden Stakes and Garlic, too!” for a reminder of how the 4 P’s of marketing applied to social issues allows you to more effectively attack a problem from numerous angles. 

I also appreciate how he shares this quote: “Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by hitting back.” It’s not bad if your prevention and behavior change efforts get push-back. Especially if you get major push-back from industry. Instead look at it this way — it means you are on the right track. It’s a sign of your effectiveness, and that’s a good thing.


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True Influence for Behavior Change

­­To understand influence for behavior change, understand the difference between popularity and influence, and the difference between reach and action.

I wish I could claim that insight as my own, but I cannot. Instead I can claim recognizing its importance and sharing it. Someone wrote this in the comments of a blog post about marketing and behavior change. I suspect the writer was thinking about social media. Numbers of Facebook fans and Twitter followers does not necessarily translate into truly influencing people to change. Marketers are discovering this to be true, as those of us in public health could have told them. Health education and health promotion professionals know that the circle of people closest to an individual can have strong influence on that individual.

I’ll search for that blog post again and share it here. It was about “marketing economics.” But to me, it read very much like public health concepts. This is exactly why I believe these two professions can share and learn and benefit from each other when we are open  to seeking info beyond our professional boundaries. And that’s one premise of this blog. (I’ve been very busy and unfortunately sick lately and not much time to actually carry through on my intentions for this blog! Will do better through 2011.)


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Wanna have FUN?


Who doesn’t wanna have FUN? That’s why Volkwagen started …

… to see if fun changes behavior. Can fun even change a risky driving behavior that’s been really hard to change? See for yourself:

This is the winning idea of the fun theory award. Kevin Richardson, USA, wondered if we could get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do. Volkswagen and The Swedish National Society for Road Safety made his innovative idea a reality in Stockholm, Sweden.

I remember seeing this one before — uh, along with 13 million other people. With good reason. When do you see everyone take the stairs and no one take the escalator?

When it’s FUN!

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How to become a true believer

A key question many of us face, in any career field, is:  When people don’t initially believe in what you’re saying, how can you get people to believe? Really believe? Believe enough that they’ll change behavior?

Find a way for them to experience your issue for themselves. Truly experience it.

Push beyond exposing people to someone else’s story or testimonial. That’s not really experiencing it for themselves. Instead engineer a situation or event where people go through an experience, and feel the results with as many of their senses as possible — yes — touch, sight, smell, taste, sound. And engage both emotion and logic.

Certainly for some issues this is easier to do than for others. It might be easier for simpler behaviors. But with creativity, we should try to find ways.

This week I had an experience that changed my belief in this way. And from a very unusual source for public health inspiration — wine glasses! Here’s what happened …

I’ve always been skeptical of catalogs selling varietal-specific wine glasses. Like many people, we’ve used “white glasses” and “red glasses” from Crate & Barrel, plus a few special glasses that obviously must be different shapes for champagne and after dinner drinks like port and vin santo. I thought the huge number of Riedel varietal-specific glasses were just a way to give people a reason to buy more glasses. After all, most people with higher disposable income already have enough glasses for their needs. So to get them to buy more, you must create a reason to make them think they need to buy more. Wa-la — why not tell them they need different glasses for all the variety of wines they drink?

I believed this was only a marketing ploy until my husband and I were in Austin this week and attended a demo of varietal-specific wine glasses, run by the patriarch of the Riedel glass family, at Max’s Wine Dive. We got tickets mostly because we would get sets of Riedel glasses worth more than the cost of the tickets (the brand was a factor, varietal specific was not), learn a bit more about wine, drink some good wines, and have a fun night out. A classic reason based on economics (that logic would be my husband’s reason, honestly!) + emotion (my reason – Riesling, Pinot Noir, yum, fun!). 

Well. Did our world of wine ever change this week!

We were given a set of four glasses specifically designed for Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Georg Riedel had us sample the Riesling and Chardonnay in their proper glasses and both were fantastic wines. Although both are white wines, each has very different flavors to deliver and he explained how the chemistry of the wines is paired with the physics of different shaped glasses. I admit I was still skeptical at this point. Then we poured the Riesling in the Chardonnay glass, and the Chardonnay in the Riesling glass. Wonderful wines now became … yuck! One turned bitter, the other lifeless, flavorless. People looked around at each other in amazement.

This went on for over an hour, sampling wines in glasses tailored to deliver a particular varietal’s strong points, then pouring the wine in other glasses. By the end we must have tried every wine in every glass. For the first time ever, I completely enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins were de-emphasized and the flavor fully blossomed. It was an eye-opener, that I might actually like cabs. It seemed everyone around me savored and lingered on that wine. Then, we poured the Cabernet Sauvignon in another glass. People sputtered, spat, spit!! Ick!! A beautiful wine was destroyed in this other glass.

Through the two hours, the demo was focused on engaging all of our senses. We even used sound, when he demonstrated the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen in a decanter. And the logical appeal came from the information about how we taste, what each wine naturally and uniquely delivers with taste, and how each glass is designed to enhance each varietal’s unique qualities. I could hear my husband’s calculator-like brain that likes numbers literally clicking when Georg Riedel asked us to think about how much we might spend on wine over a year, and how many of those do we like and not like. It’s hit or miss sometimes. What if you could increase the hit rate? So there were points to appeal to the different things people in the audience might value.

If someone tried to “sell” me on believing this by just talking to me about it, or if I had only read about it, I would not have “bought into” it. We’re marketed to so much in our American consumer culture, we must set up defenses against some marketing and messaging. We defend ourselves against messages that are trying to do some good for us, such as public health and safety messages. It takes much more than just talking to us or showing us other people tasting wines to believe in this for ourselves — to truly internalize the experience so we adopt a new belief for ourselves.

Mr. Riedel may have to do a little bit more work on my beliefs though — I do wonder if the demo chose the four glasses that highlight the most dramatic flavor swings from “yum” to “yuck.” Maybe other glasses don’t deliver so much advantage? And maybe the wines we drank were a carefully-chosen factor. With Rieslings, for one, there’s a huge range from super sweet to very dry. Couldn’t this be affected by the glass? Surely we’ll do our own demos with the glasses in our kitchen cabinets. Blind taste tests would be fun, to see what happens. Public health education folks may recognize my questions and conflict as a Stages of Change issue. There’s some more convincing to do — some barriers to overcome — before I would choose to purchase even more glasses. I’m now thinking about it due to the demo, but not ready to take action yet.

But one behavior did clearly change already. We used our new Riesling glasses from the demo already — last night we made spicy Indian food in honor of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights (for India, it’s like Christmas, New Year’s and Fourth of July all rolled into one big exciting holiday). Riesling is perfect to tone down the kick of spicy foods. It’s especially good with spicy Asian foods.

But you probably won’t believe me until you try that for yourself.   ;)

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Change Chance

This week I saw a journalist’s blog named “By Chance.” She asks, “don’t most events in our lives happen by chance?” She aims to share chance observations and experiences. Even her cat was named Chance. She really believes in chance!

I don’t believe in chance. Most of the time, things that we think are chance occurrences are really coincidences. And chance and coincidence are different things.

To bring that thought down a notch (because it’s way too philosophical for me to deal!), it’s similar to using the word “accident.” Accident implies chance. It means:

  • Someone fell off a roof while hanging Christmas lights and broke his neck due to chance.
  • A new teen driver smashed into a tree with three friends in the car, killing two friends, due to chance.
  • Grandma slipped on sidewalk ice and fractured her hip. And a year later instead of living independently in her own home, she is a nursing home resident for the rest of her days. Due to chance.
  • A pedestrian walking while talking on a cell phone steps into Michigan Avenue in Chicago and gets hit by a taxi, critically injured, due to chance.

Chance means when these things happened, they were:

  • Fate
  • Uncontrollable
  • Random
  • Flukes
  • Unforeseeable
  • Meant to happen
  • Due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time

Most egregious, you hear people say, “it was just that person’s time.” Ugh! No, it wasn’t that person’s time. These things don’t have to happen. The guy who fell off the roof should be opening Christmas presents with his kids. Those teens should all arrive home safely. Grandma should bake cookies for her grandchildren in her own house. The pedestrian should get to work that day. 

How can anyone use chance as an excuse for these situations?

In fact, all of these situations are preventable. People who are mathematical crackerjacks with probability algorithms could likely even predict probability of these incidents with accuracy. That is not chance, folks. It means there are factors that predict these situations could happen.

So let’s look real quick at obvious factors for why these four situations are not chance, why they are not accidents. They are preventable. And this is how:

  • Falls from roofs are a major cause of death for construction workers, who are  used to being on roofs. People climbing on their own house’s roof should take cues from construction employers’ safety playbook – use guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems if there’s danger of falling more than six feet. Considering that most homeowners won’t go to this extent, a few other options: 1) don’t hang lights on areas of the house beyond safe reach of a ladder or 2) costly as it is, hire insured professionals to hang lights, it’s cheaper than the costs of falling. Or don’t hang lights on the house. Creative companies sell lots of other decorations for our houses and lawns.
  • In many states, teen drivers with intermediate/junior licenses cannot drive with three teen friends. There’s a very good reason for this. A 16- or 17-year-old teen driver’s crash risk rises 4-5 times with that many friends in the car. Passengers are very distracting to new teen drivers. Simply put, the teen shouldn’t have had friends in the car. And the passengers shouldn’t have ridden with their friend, possibly illegally, depending on the state they lived in.
  • Ice should have been melted or cleared off the sidewalk so no one can fall on ice. Older residents should find volunteer or paid services to do this for them. In addition, the woman should have regular exercise program to build strength and balance, regular eye doctor visits, and proper management of all her medications and their interactions. Calcium and weight bearing exercise could also help prevent or delay osteoporosis which might improve the woman’s outcome in a fall. Install things that could help prevent or break falls along her sidewalks, such as grab bars or railings to hold. Beyond just the fall injury, falls among older people can lead to repeat falls, loss of independent living and early death.
  • In addition to the research that shows talking on cell phones contributes to car crashes, research shows pedestrians are impaired when talking on cell phones too. They look around less for potential hazards. They don’t notice things in the environment around them. They step into streets when vehicles are coming. The pedestrian shouldn’t have been talking on a cell phone, especially in the busy and hazard-filled Michigan Avenue area. This is an emerging issue and most people aren’t yet aware of the risks. Education could center around riskier areas with high pedestrian and street traffic.

So if these are preventable, and they’re not chance accidents, what are they? They are exactly what they are: crashes, falls, getting hit by a car.

Let’s change how these things are described and leave chance out of it.

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