Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice Want To Get People Talking About Death

Some 90 million Americans are living with, and dying from, critical illnesses — a figure that is expected to double over the next 25 years. Yet there are many public misconceptions and discomfort surrounding topics of pain, illness, and mortality, which hamper timely family conversations and meaningful planning for these events. 

Now, no-profit Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice is launching an awareness campaign to educate the public about end-of-life planning and care and to encourage people to discuss these important issues with their loved ones. 

“Pain, illness and mortality are such taboo subjects -- it’s very difficult for most people to bring them up,” says Dr. Stephen Goldfine, chief medical officer of Samaritan, South Jersey’s first and largest hospice. “We needed to find a way to break through those barriers, so we came up with the ‘Conversations’ campaign."  

The creative is straightforward and simple. Each ad features a powerful headline -- such as "Pain. Illness. It shouldn't hurt to talk about it.” Bold blue letters were selected in order to stand out against a pale background, with no images to distract from the words. Importantly, the word hospice does not appear in the text.

Rather, the ads are designed to drive viewers to Samaritan’s Web site, where visitors will find additional information and resources. The site includes advice, research, and tools – under the heading Conversations -- to help visitors think about their advance care wishes, discuss them with their family, and document their choices in writing.  

These ads appear on billboards, online and on local trains and station platform signage around the New Jersey region. “We are also engaging in many presentations to physicians, other healthcare providers and community members, as well as media outlets to reach the broadest audience,” says Goldfine.   

The organization first began working on this initiative in mid-2014 and teamed with Identity Advisors, Lefthand Creative and Crane Communications for the multifaceted effort. The group also has an ongoing PR consultation relationship since 2006 with Thomas/Boyd Communications. 

Samaritan has found that families often put off decisions regarding a relative’s declining health due to denial, lack of information about available resources, and fear that acknowledging the possibility of death means they are abandoning hope. 

“Due to the public’s lack of knowledge about palliative and hospice care, people are afraid to request these services at the appropriate time,” Goldfine says. “Timely conversations enable families to discover these and other valuable community resources, talk about them and incorporate them into an action plan for whenever a health crisis hits."

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