Despite use of all available means, the occurrence of diabetes seems unchecked. One of the key components in the solution process is effective and sustained behaviour change. It is no longer enough for people to know about the disease, but is imperative to adopt strategies for prevention and those affected to become more skilled at managing this. Even amongst the better-educated persons, there is still confusion as to what it exactly entails.
To enable this transformation in the lives of people, there is now a need to use more robust strategies. The use of commercial methods of marketing to effect behaviour change is called social marketing. The term appears as an oxymoron at first glance, because marketing has never been known to meet anything but commercial needs. However, the primary intent of this process is to understand client preference and barriers before implementing an intended service or programme. This method is more person-centric than traditional paternalistic means.
A vital first step is in planning and cultural segmentation. This involves establishing a goal, which in diabetes care could be prevention of complications and then finding a more culturally relevant tool. In the UK, Type 2 diabetes is up to 6 times more likely in people of South Asian descent and up to three times more likely in African and Africa-Caribbean people. Hence, the goal of behaviour therapy maybe different from the mainstream while population.
It is then important to identify the wants and needs of the target population, factors that influence its behaviour, including benefits, barriers, and readiness to change. It is this information that enables the development of a strategy that is culturally relevant and clinically appropriate. It is vital that communications ensure that they are responsive to cultural values, norms, and expectations and don`t come across as stereotypical, insensitive or patronising.
The next phase is implementation and evaluation by a process of iteration. The goal of social marketing is a bottoms up intervention keeping in mind cultural sensitivity and building of innovative strategies for behaviour change.
Used correctly, social marketing is a systematic approach and invaluable resource and has the potential to build culturally sensitive, innovative solutions which are people centric. With the advent of mobile marketing, the reach of materials and communication is more extensive. In a single day it is possible to reach 24 million daily users of Facebook in the UK. This makes Facebook nearly five times bigger than The Sun newspaper, and even for older, less affluent people we are seeing usage increase:40% of 40 to 60-year-olds in the C2D socioeconomic group visit Facebook daily. Social channels also allow us to reach people directly when they are thinking about their health. Six million health conversations took place in the social sphere during the past year.
There are some challenges like the need for upskilling healthcare professionals based on findings, availability of more time and resource and making certain that program strategies and methods are reflective of consumer preferences. Finally, even with the best research and execution there may still remain gaps in the service especially in complex long term conditions like diabetes. But with iteration and innovation there is scope of improvement.