Commentary

Creating A Healthier World

How is it that one nation can have 70 million people who are obese while another nation has over 200 million suffering from hunger? The United States has become known as the "Fast Food Nation" with supersized eating habits, and India, the nation of food insecurity and malnutrition. There could not be any greater contrast in hunger states.

So what does it take to bridge this gap and create a healthier world?
For starters, education. While access to formal education varies around the world, it's amazing how many people have mobile access. This access gives us the ability to reach people worldwide. At the same time, it's important to realize that education begins with one's family. Setting health standards at home lays the necessary foundation for living a healthier, longer life. Everything from nutrition to exercise to a healthy mindset needs to become part of a child's experience from a very young age. When adopted early in life, these daily routines become the benchmark for an overall healthy lifestyle.

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Fostering an understanding of the importance of self-care is crucial to driving a healthier world. Teaching people to think about health is one thing. Teaching them to be healthier is quite another. Access to proper information is key.

Edutainment: Make it entertaining while educating
When we think of the education piece of the equation, no matter what the topic, we should remember that it needs to be presented colloquially and in a way that is easy to digest. Part of the solution is creating bite-sized nuggets of information while taking into consideration how they will be served up. If we look around the globe, we understand that multimedia is an effective way to help communicate and drive healthier behavior. Creating portable assets that are a form of edutainment that demonstrate and educate about health risks and health benefits is one way to go.

If you make living healthier seem fun while educating (edutainment) via video, games, contests, and the like, you will have a greater chance of driving positive behavior.

Multichannel programs for a healthy world
As Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has written repeatedly, the Internet and expanded travel have made the world "flat" economically and geopolitically. But what about in terms of health? How can the free flow of information on the internet bridge these cross-national gaps in nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and infection control?

Through the more efficient and always accessible online media channels, equal time can be shared between corporate behemoths and not-for-profit, health-conscious environmental groups. Thus a movement for health can spread widely and rapidly. Traditionally less industrialized nations have rapidly growing middle classes: According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the middle class in China numbers nearly 400 million, and in India it is over 50 million.

Analytics for a healthy world
Progress toward a healthier world must be measured by a combination of statistics, at both macro and micro levels.

Macro-level population statistics show health population trends within and across countries: Lifespan, education levels, vaccination rates, disease prevalence, and obesity are a few. Yet these trends move slowly, over years and decades.

On the micro level, online data can be gathered and assimilated daily, allowing us to gauge the spread of health-conscious movements. Twitter broadcast chains, blog readerships, and YouTube video views are all signs that can be triangulated and dashboarded, to show the effectiveness of a health movement. The government learned this when promoting the availability of flu vaccines this past fall: Online promotion and public relations spread like wildfire.

The most successful online health programs will show more than a pulse; they'll demonstrate endurance over months, and even years, evolving and engaging readers over time. This, too, can be measured.

A healthy world has to begin somewhere. Let's start with better education disseminated through multichannel points of engagement.

2 comments about "Creating A Healthier World".
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  1. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, May 20, 2011 at 9:46 a.m.

    Great food for thought!

    And great recommendations for using media and marketing to proactively educate and inform positive nutritional behavior.

    But what about the regulatory focus on using media and marketing to proactively simulate questionable nutritional behavior (ie. Ronald McDonald)? And what role do those marketers have in educating consumers -- especially young, impressionable ones -- about healthy behavior?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 20, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.

    There is information aplenty from quite an assortment of venues. One major challenge is how do you make the horses drink once you have led them to the water? Then, there are thousands and thousands of pounds of food thrown away. The connections are not there. And how do you tell businesses to cut their profit to go out of business? Add in food prices have appreciably risen just in the past 6 months with the promise to increase more right around the corner. The healthier, the higher the price. Check out school lunches and that only skims the problem. The problems of marketing to the consumer must begin with marketing to the B to B to B. Who is going to pay for that? How do you market for affordability and accessibility? You have got marketing for creating a healthier world confused with the healthier world creation. The definition of middle class in India and China is not what the US middle class is and the percentage of their "middle class" is way less than ours, too. You may want to spend a few months in each humongous rural, poverty stricken areas where they do not read and access to reading before you dare to compare. You think the Chinese can critisise inaction? Have you gone into areas right here in the US where there are no supermarkets or farmers markets and professed your marketing ideas directly? Of course, more information available about healthy eating is a good thing, but that is not the problem.

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