Public Health Issue Campaign Analysis

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One of the country’s largest public health campaigns is currently the fight to end obesity.  This campaign takes aim at one of the fastest-growing, dangerous health risks that many people face in the United States every day.  The campaign’s main aims are to inform the public of the health, as well as monetary, risks that obesity presents to the public at large and to serve as a means of persuading the general population to live a more healthy lifestyle to prevent the further damage that obesity is causing the to the cultural structure of America.  This health campaign is a perfect example of a campaign that is culturally centered because it deals with an issue that, for the greater part, affects a particular lifestyle that is unique to the American way of life.  

The campaign’s online headquarters gives a user a vast supply of information and potential action when dealing with or learning about the effect that obesity has on the general population.  Their main aim is to “provide the information and guidance that decision-makers need to make policy changes that will reverse one of the nation’s costliest and most prevalent diseases,” (Campaign to End Obesity, 2011, para. 1).  The site gives multiple facts about the causes and dangers of obesity and even breaks down the cost on the individual as well as the collective group from dealing with this health issue.  Because obesity is unlike a disease such as cancer where the transmission and contraction seem almost random, special measures and skills must be taken when informing the public about the dangers that this health issue presents.  The information must be presented in a way as to not shame or alienate those that are affected by obesity while still pushing for a fundamental change in their lifestyles.

This health campaign is one that takes a particular amount of delicacy in the communication of its goals and message.  The slogans that the campaign used were of particular importance.  Those that are afflicted by obesity did not want to feel as though they were being blamed for their condition.  Subsequently, the slogans that the campaign tested that appeared to pass the blame to the group faired poorly.  Such slogans as “the more you gain, the more you have to lose,” or “childhood obesity is child abuse,” did a less effective job of rallying support than the slogans of “Eat Well. Move More. Live Longer” (Abrams, 2012, para. 5) because the group felt they were being told to make dramatic lifestyle changes without being given the proper instruction.  These examples serve as one of the most important aspects of a health campaign with regards to communication.  Those that want to rally behind an issue need a clear, concise plan of action that serves to both motivate and direct the general population without singling out or passing the blame to a specific group, especially those afflicted by the target of the health campaign.  

Research has shown that one of the most effective means of communication is to not only make social and cultural pushes for change but to “find ways of reaching out to marginalized groups,” (Duta-Bergman, 2009).  By doing this, a campaign is able to help these groups feel that they have their own choices to make all based on their own self-understanding.  For health campaigns, the limit is not simply put to reaching to marginalized groups for an effective means of communication.  The Health Communication Unite at the Canter for the Health Promotion University of Toronto provided a 12-step process and program for designing a comprehensive communication campaign, of which the ideas of how to effectively inform and call to action the general public on important health issues that they are facing.  Some of these steps include: “are goal-oriented attempts to inform, persuade or motivate behavior change,” “are most effective when they include a combination of media, interpersonal, and community events,” or “involve an organized set of communication activities,” (Health Communication Unit, 2007).  All of these steps seem to work under a unified premise: an effective communication campaign must be straightforward, positive, and make the targeted audience want to get involved. 

The obesity health campaign in the United States can be viewed as a campaign that is both mediated and cultural center.  By mediated, it is stated that this campaign, along with many other of the health campaigns in the country, counts “at least one form of media among their communication channels,” (Snyder, 2007).  For the obesity campaign, there are many forms of getting the message out including the website, public announcements, posters and handouts, and even counseling and support groups.  It is also important to recognize that this public health campaign is firmly rooted in a culture centered sense.  Unlike many of the health problems that face our society, obesity is an issue that largely affects only our nation. Of all the developed nations in the world, the United States by large is the most affected by the rising rate of obesity and diabetes in both the population and the cost to society.  All of the aims from the campaign to combat and end obesity take aim at the way of life that we as a nation tend to embrace even though the health risks are so great from doing so.

The public health campaign against obesity uses some traditional means of getting its message out to the people.  This cultural centered campaign utilizes the tried and true method of informing and calling to action the general population as a means to combat the issue presented by the campaign.  By utilizing one of the fundamental techniques of an effective communication model, this campaign has been able to receive much nation and media attention and has pushed its way to the front and center of the health issues that the United States deals with on a daily basis.  Though the public at large has received the message, the outcome remains in question.  Simply informing the public and calling them to action will not necessarily be able to entirely combat the health issue.  It is through a well thought out and executed a communications plan that this disease will be fought and, hopefully, conquered.  By continuing to rally the population while reaching out the marginalized groups, the fight against obesity will provide the public with the facts about this dangerous, costly health issue.              

References

Abrams, L. (2012, Sept 16). Obesity campaigns: The fine line between educating and shaming. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/09/obesity-campaigns-the-fine-line-between-educating-and-shaming/262401/

Campaign to End Obesity. (2011). About us. Campaign to end obesity. Retrieved from http://www.obesitycampaign.org/obesity_about_us.asp

Dutta-Bergman, M. (2009). Theory and practice in health communication campaigns: A critical interrogation. Health Communication. Retrieved from http://web.ics.purdue.edu/rche/cophi/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/TheoryPracticeDutta.pdf

Overview of health communication campaigns. (2007). Informally published manuscript, Department of public health sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from http://www.thcu.ca/infoandresources/publications/OHCMasterWorkbookv3.2.mar26.07.pdf

Synder, L. (2007). Health communication campaigns and their impact on behavior. Journal of Nutrition Education, 39(2S). Retrieved from http://people.oregonstate.edu/~flayb/MY COURSES/H549 Mass Media and Health - Winter 2012/Readings/Snyder07 Review health comm campaigns impact on nutrition behavior.pdf