II The Participants
III COMBI project
-- submitted by Tanya Hannah Rumble, Health Promoter, Halton Region Health Department
As a Health Promoter with Halton Region Health Department, I had the great fortune of living and studying in New York City for the month of July 2009. I was in New York City as a participant in the 2009 Summer Institute in Integrated Marketing Communication for Behavioural Impact in Health and Social Development at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University. After review of the course website in January 2009, extensive consultation with family, friends, and colleagues I decided to submit my application to Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. I recall being overwhelmed by the learning objectives and scope of the three week course, and am now surprised we accomplished the exhaustive list of objectives, and covered the many topics within Advertising, Marketing, Communication, Public Relations, and Community Mobilization that we did!
II The Participants
The program has already had a profound impact on me. There was only one other individual in the course that lives in North America, and the majority of my classmates were from Africa, Asia, Latin America and some from Europe. Almost everyone spoke one or two other languages before they learned to speak English, and 90% worked for the United Nations and/or an affiliated agency including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and John Hopkins University. The richness of our dialogue in class was influenced by this diverse group and I learned new things every day. By day three it felt like I had already completed an undergraduate degree, as Dr. Everold Hosein our professor challenged us to develop new pedagogies and perspectives on communicating health and social development messages. By the end of week one I began to understand the difference between behavioural impact and behaviour change. Behaviour change is a jargon term we use all too often in my work in public health. Everold has got me thinking that in some instances we do not want behaviour change, but rather we want individuals to continue practicing good behaviours, and sustaining them...this is behavioural impact NOT change.
Through the course we had numerous field visits, including a trip to the Ad Council. The work of the Ad Council began in the 1940s when it was known as the 'War Time Council' and was responsible for the iconic We Can Do It Public Service Campaign. The Ad Council produces, distributes and promotes thousands of public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies. The program at New York University has challenged me to re-orient my thinking of marketing, health promotion, and C4D (communication for development) as we engaged in several field visits to United Nations agencies including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and UNICEF. While the United Nations building that holds the General Assembly is literally crumbling in areas, the individuals and staff teams we met with in the various agencies have breathed new life into the organization and are pioneering innovative programs around the world including Conversations for a Better World, a shared blog on population, gender and health.
III COMBI project
As part of the course we were split into four groups to apply our training to a particular health or social development issue. I opted for the environmental management group, and our group selected Agent Orange as our topic of interest. The Vietnam War is long over, yet the effects of this toxic chemical have had lasting effects. The opportunity to have our work used by the United Nations was incentive to take on the topic, though application of the tools and techniques from the program can be equally applied to other issue areas, e.g. obesity prevention, chronic disease prevention, poverty alleviation.
I was privileged to work with an extraordinary group of professionals in the environmental management group. This group was comprised of a Communications Consultant with UNDP Vietnam; Communications Officer with UNDP Maldova; Technical Advisor with Population Health Environment Division of USAID; Professor at the University of Guadalajara; and AIDS Resource Center Coordinator at John Hopkins School of Public Health. Our overall goal was to prevent secondary transmission of dioxin in children living in and around the three urban Agent Orange hotspots (Bien Hoa, Da Nang and Phu Cat). The specific behavioural objective we crafted was 45% of female heads of household in homes around Agent Orange hotspots in Bien Hoa, Da Nang and Phu Cat to not cook local freshwater fish by 2014. There were three other working groups in the program: HIV/AIDS; Sexual and Reproductive Health; and Malnutrition. After the four outstanding oral presentations were given on Friday morning we all voted on the best project, and low and behold the once obscure topic of Agent Orange was voted best Integrated Marketing Communication for Behavioral Impact (IMC/COMBI) plan by our peers. I now feel like a bona fide expert on Agent Orange, which is certainly quite far removed from my realm of work… but a great learning opportunity nonetheless.
COMBI begins with the consumer and a sharp focus on the behavioral result anticipated, clearly mapped out by practical market research or situation analysis related to the desired behaviors. COMBI has been successfully applied to many health issues in the developing world, and can be effectively utilized in the prevention of chronic non-communicable disease.
As public health practitioners we have an opportunity to utilize lessons learned in the marketing of products by private industry of all merits and utility (e.g. Tobacco) and mobilizing to benefit from these techniques in addressing decreasing the burden of chronic disease. Suppose that if "we can't beat them, then join them."