USF COPH represents at the World Social Marketing Conference

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From reducing salt intake to preventing smoking, social marketing may be the key to establishing behavior change, according to USF College of Public Health faculty and students who attended the 6th World Social Marketing Conference.

“I have always been fascinated by how effective corporations are at persuading people to buy products or enroll in services,” said doctoral student Silvia Sommariva. “In social marketing, we take those lessons and tools that have been so successful in corporate marketing and apply them to key social issues, like improving our diet or quitting smoking, in a way that is ethical and puts the community needs upfront.”

She was one of the many USF COPH representatives present at the conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland held in June.

Angela Makris, Dr. Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha and Silvia Sommariva. (Photo courtesy of Angela Makris)

The conference, comprised of public health researchers and practitioners with interests in social marketing, health communication, health education and advocacy, aims to build a global movement to spread and share best practices in social marketing. It draws social marketers from more than 35 different countries to exchange ideas and share their experiences.

According to the CDC, social marketing is the use of marketing theory, skills, and practice to achieve social change, promote general health, raise awareness and induce changes in behavior.

“Because it revolves around the needs of a group of individuals, social marketing helps understand public health issues from the perspective of the people we serve, which is key to success,” Sommariva said.

Sommariva presented on her work with promotion of the HPV vaccine on social media.

“I presented on an application of conjoint analysis to the study of people’s preferences for content and design features related to the promotion of the HPV vaccine on social media,” she said. “What are people most influenced by when they see a social media post that promotes HPV immunization? Do they consider the arguments contained in the post, or are they more driven by the images and who is posting the content?”

Her findings indicated that most people are driven by the images, but not everyone behaves in the same way.

“We can identify segments of people that have different preferences. The idea is to use this knowledge to tailor promotional content and target people more effectively,” she said.

Angela Makris, current doctoral student and recent MPH graduate who presented one paper and two posters at the event, said social marketing matters for public health.

“Social marketing matters because it works with the community that most needs help in changing a behavior to achieve better health outcomes, it is collaborative, which is so important for sustaining interventions in any community,” she said. “It takes the best of marketing and gives it a human touch to solve a variety of public health problems that come under big umbrellas of health and health care inequities among vulnerable populations.”

She, along with her colleague, Leonidas Skerlotopoulos—a national representative of the European Social Marketing Association in Greece—earned second place for their poster entitled, “A Citizen Designed Program to Ban Smoking in Enclosed Public Spaces: The Trikala City Programme, Greece.”

Makris and colleague Leonidas Skerlotopoulos stand with their award-winning poster. (Photo courtesy of Angela Makris)

The objective of the project was to enforce the ban on smoking indoors in the city of Trikala aimed at restaurant, café and bars owners, the largest group of non-compliant commercial locations in the city, according to Makris.

“The economic aim was to convince business owners that by enforcing the law there would not be a decrease in business and profits and politically, the mayor’s strength with his constituents would not weaken. At the beginning of the intervention only 5 percent of stores complied. One year after the intervention, 90 percent of businesses are complying with the law. This shows how when the community supports a behavior change it really can be sustained.”

Their work was designated as “highly commended” by the judges.

“This was judged as the second-best poster over a total of 53 submitted on a global scale,” Makris said. “My academic career is only just starting and to be acknowledged with this award helps me stay motivated when theories, readings and deadlines loom large as I start my PhD in the fall.”

The conference took place in Edinburgh, Scotland and the next conference may be in Latin America. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Khaliq Pasha)

Dr. Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, assistant professor of social marketing and associate director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Social Marketing and Social Change, presented on a systemic literature review on how social marketing has been used to address salt reduction efforts worldwide and her current project in Latin America.

She also presented along with her doctoral students Sommariva and Makris.

“Social marketing appeals to me as it resides in working with and understanding the consumer,” Khaliq Pasha said. “So, at the heart of it is the community and the individual and understanding them to such a level, where what you offer or provide seems in line with who they are or who they want to be.”

This is key to public health efforts, according to her.

“Social marketing matters as it tries to increase our return on investment (ROI) on any intervention that we attempt by understanding the impact and the likelihood of success,” she said. “It tries to increase the ROI by focusing our efforts on a specific behavior and a very specific segment of the population and tries to steer clear of the ‘one size fits all’ strategy.”

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health