Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Ambitions for Health

Readers with an interest in the way public health campaigns are planned and executed may remember the concern that Mark Bellis and Harry Sumnall expressed about the use of social marketing. They said:

with access to powerful media such as the internet, professional eye-catching graphics and demographic targeting techniques unimaginable only a decade ago, such views need reassessing. In this report, we highlight the potential for social marketing campaigns to have negative repercussions, using cannabis prevention as an example.

Ambitions for Health

Ambitions for Health

I mention this because I’ve just seen the Department of Health’s Ambitions for Health, the web page for which says:

This strategic framework sets out how we plan to work together with key leaders in the public health community to embed social marketing principles into health improvement programmes. Its also illustrates the practical tools we are developing to build social marketing competencies and capacity in England. It sets out how we will make sure that all of our policy development and public health interventions are informed by our understanding of what motivates people. In turn, this will enable us to build on our successes and ensure that we become a world leader in promoting health.

Writing in the foreword health minister, Dawn Primarolo MP, says:

Huge health challenges are posed by issues like obesity, drug and alcohol misuse, smoking, sexual health and teenage pregnancy, and poor mental health. Our task is to ensure that we use the evidence and our understanding about people to design and deliver interventions that help as many individuals as possible.

One of the case studies makes it clear where things are going.  The project that’s described is trying to reduce the public use of alcohol amongst young people in North Tyneside, they say:

There was little evidence that school-based, or large-scale education or promotional campaigns had any effect on young people when used as the main means of countering alcohol misuse. Drinking was seen by many to be their main or only leisure option, and was also considered to be a safe alternative to drugs.

The PCT who were leading the project identified young women as their particular target and held focus groups and interviews with young people, their parents and key workers.  The focus groups delivered the message that having nowhere to go was a key concern for the young people, something which didn’t surprise the team, but which they found valuable.

The study doesn’t describe the way they are going to take to address the issues, but one of the team is quoted saying:

“But by taking the approach we have, I believe we have more chance of effecting behavioural change than if we had simply adopted the old-style, top-down messaging of the past. Putting the customer at the heart of the process has undoubtedly yielded dividends – even at this early stage.”

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