Typically, public health campaigns focus on the preparation and dissemination of information to specific sub-populations about disease prevention. However, often times even the best conceived efforts with seminal information are not adopted by targeted individuals. This research article looks at innovative efforts by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario to market “Small Steps”, a program that aimed to increase physical activity for those at risk for cardiovascular disease. Rather than using traditional dissemination efforts, however, the Foundation used market segmentation and program evaluation along with traditional health promotion distribution channels. The study found that adopting marketing techniques helped the Foundation to understand which demographic segments responded to the ad and what types of media worked the best to attract telephone responses.
This study provides an interesting perspective: Whereas most academic studies focus on the medical evidence and content of certain evidence-based preventive guidelines, this study focuses on what methods can be used to get that information (more proactively) into the hands of individuals at-risk. To that extent, this study’s main contribution is to give public health agencies, non-profit organizations, and medical entities new tools to reach out to patient populations, and in particular certain segments, for information dissemination. While this takeaway may be useful for the public health community, it should also be noted that cardiovascular disease, due to the large demographic affected, may not be generalizable to other prevention efforts that focus on a smaller or more specific demographic. Such efforts should likely be tailored with the lessons of this article in mind, but also realizing that they might not be completely generalizable.