Japanese Association of Health Marketing Vol.2, No.1

Japanese Association of Health Marketing Second Annual Symposium Health behavior and Social Marketing: How do we create a desired behavior?

Miki Akiyama1), Jun Fukuyoshi2), Masamitsu Kamada3), Tsuyoshi Okuhara4), Yoko Uryuhara5,6), Masaaki Matoba7)

1) Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University
2) Cancerscan Inc.
3) Department of Health Education and Health Sociology, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo
4) Department of Health Communication, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo
5) Doshisha University, Faculty of Commerce
6) The Social Marketing Research Centre, Doshisha University
7) School of Nursing and Rehabilitation Science, Showa University

Social marketing practices and research efforts to address health issues have been accumulating over the past decade in Japan and elsewhere. The theme of our second symposium, held in Fukushima in September 2023, was the use of social marketing to promote positive health behaviors in society. Three panelists introduced the latest research findings and methods implemented in Japan to promote desirable changes in health behaviors of the target population. Following each panelist’s presentation, a designated discussant and the participants explored how to implement research evidence in society and how to translat e practice into research. We aim to continue deepening our insights into the relationship between health behavior and social marketing.

Social marketing to fill the evidence-practice gap

Jun Fukuyoshi

Cancerscan Inc.

While evidence on what actions are beneficial to health accumulates through research, the translation of this evidence into widespread practice is a separate and ongoing challenge. Awareness does not inevitably lead to action. For instance, despite clear evidence that cancer screening can reduce mortality rates, screening uptake remains low. Efforts by governments, local authorities, and companies such as Pink Ribbon campaigns have increased awareness of the importance of cancer screenings, but this has not significantly boosted screening rates. To bridge this so-called evidence-practice gap, new initiatives using social marketing have been undertaken, focusing on inducing screening behavior. Central to these social marketing efforts is the development of communication strategies that are based on marketing frameworks such as Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning (STP), and WHO/WHAT/HOW. These efforts aim for more effective and efficient promotion of health behaviors (like cancer screening) through messaging that taps into the target audience’s insights.

Real-world intervention studies of physical activity promotion using social marketing

Masamitsu Kamada

Department of Health Education and Health Sociology, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo

Insufficient physical activity poses a public health challenge, and social marketing is emerging as a key strategy to address it. A multi-strategy, community-wide intervention in Unnan City (Shimane, Japan) stands out as the sole study on physical activity promotion for older adults that meets all social marketing benchmark criteria. It marks the first successful community-level cluster randomized trial for physical activity promotion; it is highlighted in the U.S. government’s Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee report and international academic society statements. Additionally, the Pacific League, a Japanese professional baseball league, has offered the “Pa-League Walk” app for free since 2016 (with over 70,000 downloads). Designed with gamification to engage fans, the app promotes enjoyable and active behavior aligned with fandom. A quasi-experimental study revealed increased step counts among app users. The app also extended outreach to underserved groups, including males, middle-aged individuals, and users representing a diverse range of socioeconomic status. Approximately one-fourth of users were in the pre-contemplation stage of exercise behavior change at app initiation, indicating the benefits of collaborating with areas/sectors other than health field. To advance high-quality dissemination programs of health behaviors, it is deemed imperative to cultivate individuals who are skilled in social marketing.

Encouraging health behaviors based on evolutionary psychology

Tsuyoshi Okuhara

Department of Health Communication, School of Public Health, The University of Tokyo

Typically, communication efforts to promote health behaviors have targeted the motive of disease avoidance. Importantly, however, people do not live their lives solely concerned with avoiding diseases. Evolutionary psychologists postulate that there are seven fundamental human motives: self-protection, disease avoidance, affiliation, status, mate acquisition, mate retention, and kin care. For example, the primary concern of adults with young children is kin care. Intervention studies of COVID-19 vaccination recommendations, HPV vaccination recommendations, and cervical cancer screening recommendations found that kin care messages increased behavioral intentions to the same extent as disease avoidance messages. Communication to encourage positive health behaviors should target not only the fundamental motive of disease avoidance, but also other motives that are of paramount importance to recipients.

Future Direction of Health Marketing

Yoko Uryuhara1,2)

1) Doshisha University, Faculty of Commerce
2) The Social Marketing Research Centre, Doshisha University

Social marketing is defined as and aimed at “encouraging behavior change” in view of the greater social good. The question, then, is how can we increase the effectiveness of behavior change? Several studies have suggested that designing measures that include more benchmark criteria with a core focus on “exchange” will increase their effectiveness. Therefore, it is essential to train social marketing specialists who can develop and implement such programs. Furthermore, deeper discussions should be held about what kind of human capital development will contribute to the promotion and maintenance of people’s health.

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