Tag Archive | HSCI825

C4H Blog Announcement!

Hello dear readers!

This blog was originally created for a graduate course in Advocacy and Communication for Health taught by Dr. Kitty Corbett in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

As of 5pm today, all the grades have been submitted and a collective sigh of relief has gone up from those of us finishing the term. Many are graduating, others are spending the next few months working on practicums, and a few are taking courses during the summer term. As a class, we contributed 108 blog posts from Jan. 17th to April 23rd 2013.

And it turns out – we’re pretty popular!

In just a few months, we’ve had almost 4000 views from 64 different countries around the world!

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Together we have built up a useful resource that many have taken the time to send their thanks for – here are just a few of the reader comments that have been left on our blog:

I love your website! Thank you so much for sharing and imparting.” -Anonymous From India

Thanks for posting this! – Philadelphia Theatre for the Oppressed

Great article. Never consider marketing ethics being played out in religious groups! Thanks for posting the bullet points for ethical behaviour, very useful!” – MorallyMarketing.com

I wholeheartedly believe that when you are creating any type of health communication materials, it is absolutely critical to have members of the priority community participate on the development team because they do, in fact, have a rich lived experience that simply cannot be overlooked or minimalized. Thanks for sharing!” – Ohio Government member

I’d like to thank all of my colleagues for their amazing contributions and insights. This blog is an excellent example of the great synergy that comes from collective work in our Master of Public Health program at Simon Fraser University.

Since this is such a great resource, and it seems to be helping people around the world who are interested in public health, I volunteered to continue contributing to and moderating the blog, and a few of my fellow graduate students have also chosen to come forward as continuing authors. We look forward to continuing to build on these ideas and share them with you!

If you have a specific interest that you would like us to write about, or if there is a resource you would like us to review, please leave a comment below or if you prefer, send me an email: stopps@sfu.ca

Sarah Topps 2013 [Communication4Health moderator]


A note to my colleagues: please send me an email by May 31st if you are interested in continuing to contribute (as little as twice every 6 months) and I will make up an author profile for you on the about page. After May 31st, I will be changing the status of anyone who has not emailed me so that they cannot modify the blog entries.


Cuts to health advocacy in Canada: Part of a troubling trend?

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) issued a press release today announcing that Health Canada will be cutting funding to the Health Council of Canada (HCC) as of March 2014. Founded in 2003 as part of an agreement between the federal government and the provincial and territorial premiers, the council has served as an independent assessor of the Canadian health care system. Its primary duty has been to monitor the spending of two accords between the federal and provincial governments, which respectively provided $24-billion and $41-billion for health care. Through its work it has also identified health inequities in Canada. This has included the publication of “general progress reports and themed reports on Aboriginal health, wait times, home and community care, health indicators and other topics” (CMAJ, 2013). The HCC has advocated for an approach to improving the health of the population through addressing the root causes of inequitable health outcomes, such as poverty. The HCC accomplishes this work with a relative modest sum. At the time of the announcement, the federal government funding for the HCC with $6.5-million per year, an amount that is hardly notable in the context of the entire federal budget. To put this figure in perspective, the Canadian government recently spent $21-million on ads promoting its Economic Action Plan in one year alone.

The federal government has argued that the cuts are justified on the basis that the HCC’s ten-year mandate is coming to an end in 2014. Moreover, some have argued that the council has been ineffectual in its assessment of the accords’ implementation. André Picard of The Globe and Mail posits that the council has been unable to adequately assess changes in wait times and that its efforts to highlight inventive health-care projects have not resulted in their implementation elsewhere in the country.

However, the cuts to the HCC appear to be part of a troubling trend in the relationship between the federal government and institutions that serve as essential resources. Since the election of the Conservative government in 2006, we have witnessed cuts in funding for other organizations and agencies that provide important data on health and demographics in Canada, such as the recent reduction in funding for Statistics Canada. The elimination of the mandatory long-form census back in 2010 was another major blow to researchers working in a variety of fields.

To take an unabashedly political stance, I would argue that the cutting of funding to the HCC represents an effort to silence those who do not agree with the current government’s priorities. There is certainly no lack of precedent: the ongoing muzzling of federal government scientists and the recent closure of the experimental lakes area are two excellent examples of this effort.

The degradation in data quality—or the complete lack thereof—that results from cuts to organizations and agencies such as the HCC or Statistics Canada makes it harder for those in both primary care and public health to advocate for evidence-based interventions. I strongly believe this will detrimentally affect the health of the country and put additional strain on public health agencies as they seek ways of filling this newfound data gap in a time of fiscal austerity. As current and future public health practitioners we should find these cuts troubling and make efforts to lobby not only our federal representatives, but also to raise awareness in the general public about these cuts and what their implications are for health in Canada.


Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2013). Advocates decry health council’s demise.   Retrieved from http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/18apr13_advocates-decry-health-councils-demise.xhtml.

Entertainment Education and Sexual Assault

TRIGGER WARNING – This blog post pertains to sexual assault.

I recently came across a news article that links back to our discussion of entertainment education. It notes that a study published in the Journal of Health Communication found that frequent viewers of Law & Order, CSI, or NCIS “are more likely to help prevent sexual assault or intervene if they have the opportunity”. The study authors document a shift in how sexual assault has been portrayed in television crime dramas. While story-lines that placed blame on the survivor were common in the late 1980s and early 1990s, more recent analyses have focused on debunking such “victim-blaming” and have included instances of bystander intervention.

The study is grounded in the integrative model of behavioural prediction, which holds that the likelihood of an individual performing a certain action is dependent upon their attitudes toward performing said behaviour, perceived norms about the behaviour, and perceived self-efficacy to carry out the behaviour. In the context of the study, the authors defined the behaviour as “taking action before or during a sexual assault or by speaking out against attitudes that support sexual violence” (Banyard et al., 2007 in Hust et al., 2012, p.107). Given that norms may vary according to setting the researchers controlled for beliefs that seemed likely to influence bystander intervention: rape myth acceptance, perception of social norms and peer expectations. A detailed explanation of how the researchers defined these variables is provided in the article. After controlling for these factors the authors found that “exposure to crime dramas was positively associated with intentions to intervene. Exposure to primetime crime dramas explained .7% more variance after considering all previous predictors” (Hust et al., 2012, p.118). Although this might not seem like much, it is important to consider that these cases differ somewhat from the case-studies of entertainment education highlighted in class. Most notably, they did not occur in the context of a planned health communication intervention and were not based on a specific methodology (cf. The Sabido Method). They raise the possibility of planned and coordinated health messaging in primetime crime dramas, which may prove more effective. Hust et al. (2012, p.119) argue that “larger effect sizes may be generated by exposure to crime dramas that have a greater focus on sexual violence” as well by the frequency with which individuals watch said programs.

This study has some obvious limitations. It only addresses sexual assaults that occur in a public or otherwise communal space. Most serious sexual assaults occur in private, where intervention by a third party is unlikely. Furthermore, the study participants were drawn from freshmen university students living in residence. This may limit the generalizability of the study’s findings to the broader population. However, the choice of sample does not seem unwise given concerns about sexual assault on university campuses.

The publication of this study is, unfortunately, timely in light of recent cases that have seen much attention in the media. The sexual assaults that took place in Steubenville and in Cole Harbour occurred at parties and communal gatherings, the very sort of contexts cited in the study. Although we must make comprehensive efforts at combatting the rape culture that enables perpetrators of sexual assault and shames survivors, the potential for entertainment education to play a role is cause for some hope.

Hust, S. J., Marett, E. G., Lei, M., Chang, H., Ren, C., McNab, A. L., & Adams, P. M. (2013). Health Promotion Messages in Entertainment Media: Crime Drama Viewership and Intentions to Intervene in a Sexual Assault Situation. Journal of Health Communication18(1), 105-123.


Social Math Making an Impact

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently released a report on Progressive Tax Options for BC. In the report they listed off several options for tax reform in BC. Some of their suggestions included:

  • Increasing the tax rate for the top bracket ($103,205 +/yr) from 14.7% to 17
  • Increase tax rate and add two new taxable income brackets by dividing up the current top bracket into 2 or 3 (i.e. 15% on $103,000 – $150,000 income; 18% on $150,000-$200,000; and 21% on income over $200,000)
  • Increase ALL tax rates by 20% and add two new upper income tax brackets at 20% and 22%
  • Return corporate income tax rate to 13.5%
  • Reduce corporate tax deductions
  • Increase the BC carbon tax to $50 per tonne of CO2

The list goes on, to include several more options. However, what I’m interested in pointing out is not necessarily these progressive tax ideas (although interesting in themselves), but how CCPA went on to make this information more relatable to the general public. Many would glance at this report and not be sure of what to make of it. So CCPA went a step farther using Social Math.

Social Math = is a simplistic way of making data and complex ideas more basic by relating it to concepts we already understand. It’s a way of presenting numbers in a real-life situation that is more familiar to the general masses.

So for each of these progressive tax options the actual impact can be better understood using social math, for instance:

  • Increasing the tax rate for the top bracket from 14.7% to 17%, would generate $375 million, that could increase welfare benefit rates from $200 to $400/month
  • Increase tax rate and add two new upper bracket taxable incomes would generate $700 million, that could build 2000 units of new social housing per year plus restore K-12 class sizes, composition and specialist teacher staffing to levels that prevailed 5 yrs ago
  • Increasing ALL tax rates in each bracket by 20% and adding additional upper income tax brackets at 20% and 22% would generate $2.3 billion that could fund:
  1. 2000 units/yr of new social housing
  2. Welfare benefit increases
  3. Restore class sizes, composition and specialist teachers to where they were 5 yrs ago
  4. First phase of child care plan
  5. Needed investments in community health care for seniors and people with disabilities
  6. Ministry of Children and Family Development budget increases
  7. Increase in postsecondary education funding
  8. Substantial increases to environmental protection
  9. OR….
  10. Eliminate MSP Premiums
  • Return corporate income tax rate to 13.5% would generate $700 million that could develop a more ambitious Climate Action Plan
  • Reduce corporate tax deductions would generate $300 million that could be spent on Green industry investments
  • Increase the BC carbon tax to $50 per tonne of CO2 would generate $2.2 billion; $1.1 billion could fund an expanded low and middle income carbon credit (making the bottom half of BC households net beneficiaries even with a high carbon tax) and $1.1 billion for public transit and/or building retrofits to reduce greenhouse gases.

They also have various infographics that show the impacts that these progressive tax options could have.

tax-options-930-million-a-1       Tax-options-graphic-carbon-tax

Just by putting this data in to a more familiar context the impact and reach of the information is likely to increase substantially.

Ivanova, I., & Klein, S. (2013, January). Progressive tax options for BC: Reform ideas for raising new revenues and enhancing fairness. Retrieved from: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2013/01/CCPA-BC-Tax-Options.pdf 

(abrubach, 2013)

Truth Anti-Smoking Presentation

Hello everyone,

Here is my presentation from today.  Also, be sure to check out these youtube videos for a few of my other favourite ads of theirs!



The Truthpresesentation

Social Marketing Ethics: A need for more open dialogue

I came across a blog posting recently that had the National Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana blaming some of the pastors for hampering their efforts to reduce mental illness. He claimed that the pastors “brainwashed patients and their relatives” and played on their superstitious beliefs to discourage them from seeking help from mental health professionals. Shifting gears, the Chief Psychiatrist then started discussing the new Mental Health Act. He stated that it was key to decreasing mental illness among the masses and would result in 40-50 psychiatric bed facilities in all regions in the next 10 years. Elaborating on the mental health strategy, he said “we will target specific groups and educate them on the law to ensure its effective implementation”.  I couldn’t help but notice the National Chief Psychiatrist’s none too subtle hostility towards the pastors. Clearly he thought that the pastors were in the wrong and his endorsed mental health strategy was the answer to better mental health in Ghana. While there wasn’t a quote from these “brainwashing pastors” I did wonder about their side of the story. What did they think of the new Mental Health Act? Did they think that their ways were the right ways? The bottom line is that both the National Chief Psychiatrist and the pastors are competing with each other. They are trying to market a product, be it the new mental health strategy that adopts a more clinical approach or traditional ways and medicine; they are both trying to influence people’s health behaviours and perception towards mental illness. They are “targeting” specific audiences and promoting a message specific to them. While the 4 Ps i.e. Product, Place, Price and Promotion may vary for the National Chief Psychiatrist and the local pastors, they are both attempting to change people’s help seeking behaviours regarding mental health. This right here was social marketing in action!

This got me wondering about the ethics of social marketing and how it isn’t necessarily discussed. If anything, as conscientious public health professionals it is assumed that everyone will adhere to ethical standards. And we assume yet again that which ever product health professionals are trying to get the audience to adopt is the right one for them. Hopefully the product which could be an intervention, service etc. is evidence based, context appropriate and based on valid formative research. But in the end, does that justify using social marketing to manipulate people’s behaviours to satisfy your intervention goals and objectives? Does it then make it alright to do so as long as you have public welfare and best intentions at heart? How far is it ok to go when using fear, shame or anxiety in social marketing strategies? Andreasen (2001) discussed a list of ethical principles common to both social and commercial marketing –

  • Be truthful
  • Protect privacy
  • Don’t model inappropriate behaviour
  • Don’t be offensive
  • Be fair and balanced
  • Avoid stereotyping
  • Protect the children

However, as Andreasen (2001) elaborates, we can’t consider these principles as a checklist that gives equal weight to each issue.  An open dialogue and locating yourself is extremely important. He also suggests use of rational frameworks to avoid bad ethics. I have listed below some resources that I found helpful. While by no means do they answer all questions, they are a good starting point.

Some useful resources:

Amenuveve, V. (January 12, 2013). Superstition, pastors blamed – For derailing effort at reducing mental illness. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://news.peacefmonline.com/social/201301/152964.php

Andreasen, A.R. (2001). Ethics in Social Marketing. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Eagle, L. (2009). Social marketing ethics: report prepared for the National Social Marketing Centre. Technical Report. National Social Marketing Centre. Retrieved February 6 2013 from http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/54/1/NSMC_Ethics_Report.pdf

Rothschild, M.L. (1999). Carrots, Sticks, and Promises: A Conceptual Framework for the Management of Public Health and Social Issue Behaviors. Journal of Marketing, 63, 24-37.


Dhaarna Tangri