The role for marketing in public health change programs

Robert J. Donovan, Curtin University


The public health paradigm provides a comprehensive framework for identifying target groups for action, setting objectives, identifying factors that influence risky behaviours, and generating policies to facilitate positive changes. What a public health approach lacks is a framework for the implementation of programs, and particularly with respect to communicating with and persuading target audiences to adopt recommended behaviours. This paper proposes that the discipline of marketing not only brings an innovative mindset to program planning, but also provides the means for effectively operationalising the conceptual frameworks and goals of health promotion and public health. Marketing not only includes an ecological perspective, but draws heavily from the social sciences with respect to models of attitude and behaviour change. This paper proposes that social marketing in the health area is the integration of marketing, the public health paradigm and the health promotion Ottawa Charter. This is illustrated by reference to a ‘new 4Ps’ that complement marketing’s traditional ‘4Ps’ and target upstream environmental and commercial marketing factors.

Rob Donovan <> is Professor of Behavioural Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Social Marketing in the School of Marketing and principal of Mentally Healthy WA Act-Belong-Commit campaign at Curtin University. After a career in commercial marketing he returned to academia in the early 1990s. He has a broad range of interests, including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, child abuse, domestic violence, racism and mental health. Until recently he was Deputy Chair of the WA Ministerial Council on Suicide Prevention, is currently a Vice-president of the Board of Relationships Australia WA, and represents the Australian government on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Education Committee.

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