Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety- 3 tips to raise awareness

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health care pictureOn September 3-4, 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board attended a workshop in Washington, DC to discuss the impact marketing and communications have on consumer knowledge, skills, and behavior as it relates to food, nutrition, and healthy eating. The goal of the workshop was to address the current state of science and how to use this information to communicate health literacy, consumer knowledge and behaviors with respect to food safety, nutrition, and other health issues, explore scientific information and communicating using credible sources, and how food literacy can be strengthened by using consumer-centric strategies. The overall take home message in the workshop brief was as stated by Cynthia Baur. She said, “I think every single presentation has focused on the fact that you have to start where people are with the lived reality of their lives and then build whatever it is you want to do from there.” 

In today’s fast-paced social and digital environment, messages are thrown in the faces of consumers from every angle.  Celebrities endorse diet plans and products. Products are being marketed with claims that are positioned to appeal to targeted audiences. Friends and families are sharing testimonials and product experiences on their social websites. Marketers and advertisers are designing campaigns and brand stories around analytical and tracking tools. What’s critical in all the chaos, is finding the right balance of integration.  According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), titled, “Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012,” the research conclusion stated, that, “Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.”

I found the food literacy workshop brief incredibly insightful because it poses an important question. How do healthcare quality and patient safety experts communicate scientific information about health concerns to diverse audiences in a crowded Internet space? The short answer is, it depends. Obesity spans across race, social and economic backgrounds.

After reading the food literacy brief and researching obesity, I would like to offer the following three actions to merge healthcare quality and patient safety with integrated marketing communications:

  1. Send test messages to targeted audiences- A/B Testing
  2.  Listen and engage on social and digital media– Storytelling campaigns
  3.  Use Integrated Marketing Communication strategies- build relationships with patients across many channels to increase awareness of specific health concerns.



National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Food Literacy: How Do Communications and Marketing Impact Consumer Knowledge, Skills, and Behavior?: Workshop in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015. doi:10.17226/21863

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