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Contribution of social marketing strategies to community-based obesity prevention programmes in children

Luis_MorenoAn interview of Prof. Luis Moreno from the University of Zaragoza and leader of the EEN Committee on "Methods and Social Marketing Techniques", highlights some key aspects of this topic in the framework of childhood obesity prevention Community Intervention Programmes.



Within the EPODE European Network (EEN) project, the School of Health Sciences Of the University of Zaragoza is collaborating to study the interest of network expertise and social marketing techniques applied to childhood obesity prevention, within the EPODE programme. Prof. Luis Moreno, who is leading this research, underlined for us some key aspects of this issue.

EEN Newsletter: In recent years, an ecological approach to nutrition and physical activity promotion has become widespread in community-based obesity prevention programs. One aspect of such approaches has been the incorporation of social marketing. A definition of Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, for a social good [1] . Different studies concluded that the use of such techniques might contribute to the effectiveness, efficiency and evaluation of different kinds of interventions aimed at changing health-related behaviours2].Your recent publication intends to highlight this aspect of the question.  

According to your point of view, what is the added value of using social marketing techniques in childhood obesity prevention programmes?

Prof. Luis Moreno: The question refers to the recent study we have published[3]in the International Journal of Obesity. In fact, in this literature review we tried to obtain the scientific basis for the use of social marketing techniques in a context of childhood obesity prevention programmes. This study examines these past interventions in the light of a social marketing framework that has been designed to increase intervention effectiveness.

To do so, we reviewed the available studies in which the social marketing approach and tools have been used to implement interventions even when it was not explicitly mentioned. An important finding to have in mind is that the more recent the studies, the more often social marketing techniques were used and mentioned.

Therefore, according to our research the link between the inclusion of social marketing techniques and the efficacy of the interventions is not very extensive. At the moment, studies aimed at preventing obesity in children and adolescents have not included social marketing aspects in their interventions in a comprehensive manner.

In this regards, there is a recent study that was designed in the United States called the HEALTHY STUDY[4] that includes systematically social marketing-based communications approach within school-based health behaviour interventions.

EEN Newsletter: Within the EPODE programme, methods and social marketing approaches aim at mobilising local stakeholders within their daily activity (teachers, Local NGOs, catering services...) to promote healthy lifestyles and greater physical activity in everyday life, empowering families and individuals in a sustainable way. The social marketing techniques are also used to design the waves of biannual themes that are expounded/adapted by the local communities.

According to your work within the EEN project, what are specificities of the EPODE methodology in using social marketing techniques?

Prof. Moreno: To remember here, at least from our perspective, what is important in the EEN project is to obtain scientific basis of the four EPODE pillars including the Methods and Social Marketing and use the results in practice.

The strength of social marketing is to apply its principles and strategies in a coordinated, sustained and innovative effort. Interacting with the EPODE like programs at different level (national to local) we could identify several social marketing aspects applied in the intervention.

At the national coordination it was clear that they were using a social marketing approach for the development of the biannual campaigns. At local level, the consciousness of the theory of social marketing was less clear, although the local project managers apply social-marketing related techniques even if not named so, through simple but key ingredients such as the segmentation on the field. This element consists in adapting the messages according to the different population groups. In fact, it is not the same if we address to boys or girls or to different age groups in childhood. The messages will be also different for parents or grand parents (that are important family actors). It is a relative simple component but it is well applied and we have to have it in mind in order to improve practice.

EEN Newsletter: While prevention strategies such as behavioural change and awareness campaigns feature highly, questions remain about their success. Greater use of social marketing campaigns on exercise and healthy eating may contribute to higher effectiveness in prevention in the future.

In the context of EPODE and similar initiatives, what would be the main recommendations from the EEN research as regards the implementation of social marketing techniques in children obesity prevention?

Prof. Moreno : To emphasise some ideas I already mentioned, from our scientific point of view, in the coming years, we should learn which components of social marketing are the most effective in the context of childhood obesity prevention. We should also emphasise the need to implement social marketing techniques in a systematic way and improve the training of the local project manager in relation to this topic.

Another important point is to link the research activities of the social marketing group with the group in charge of monitoring and evaluation of the EPODE program. This tight collaboration would represent an opportunity to improve the monitoring of the implementation of social marketing techniques in the EPODE programs.

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[1] “Influencing human behaviour for social good” French, Blair-Stevens, 2006

[2] “Social marketing as childhood obesity prevention strategy” W. Douglas Evans1, Katherine K. Christoffel, Jonathan W. Necheles and Adam B. Becker, 2010

[3] “Contribution of social marketing strategies to community-based obesity prevention programmes in children” L. Gracia-Marco, G. Vicente-Rodrıguez, JM. Borys, Y. Le Bodo, S. Pettigrew and LA. Moreno, International Journal of obesity, 2010

[4] “Social marketing-based communications to integrate and support the HEALTHY study intervention”, L. L. DeBar, M. Schneider, E. G. Ford, A. E. Hernandez, B. Showell, K. L. Drews, E. L. Moe, B. Gillis, A. N. Jessup, D. D. Stadler and M. White, International Journal of obesity, 2009