Does Prevention Have an Expiration Date?

Jan 28

Jason Karlawish

Photo credit: New York Times

I just read Jason Karlawish’s article Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry.   Karlawish uses singer Leonard Cohen as a way to tee up a very compelling question: “When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?”  Cohen celebrated his 80th birthday this past weekend, apparently by recommencing his smoking habit with a celebratory cigarette.  His argument –at 80, he is too old to worry about the health risks.

All of the health risks of secondary smoke and the impact on others around him aside, this act and attitude gave me pause.  My inner public health zealot immediately came up with multiple reasons why this was a ridiculous excuse to light back up – there are NO good reasons to ever light up in my heart of hearts.   However, the rest of the article went on to explore the deeper question of when or at what age risk reduction becomes unnecessary or ineffective.  Given all of the prevention messages we are exposed to throughout life (or that we, as public health professionals, are disseminating), is there a time where we should pursue not just living, but also happiness?

With the vast population of boomers aging into their senior years, we will likely see this question being asked more frequently.  We have more active and vibrant senior populations than ever – largely due to the advances in medicine; knowledge regarding the importance of prevention; and behaviors that result from that knowledge.  Still, at what point will these audiences grow fatigued with all the preventive efforts, and adopt Cohen’s philosophy of living in the present?   Will the tide shift overwhelmingly toward that philosophy, reaching a tipping point? And will it then start to ebb younger and younger, in a backlash to our current preventive efforts?   What may happen is still yet to be determined… until then, we each may want to give more thought to the question of at what point happiness becomes more important than prevention.   The answers may be telling.


Some Mo-tivation and Mo Wisdom – A Style Guide on Movember and More

Jan 15

When I moved in 2010 to Washington, DC, I noticed a “growing” trend that was sweeping the nation – Movember. Since then, the Movember movement keeps strong and as I commuted to work this past November, I saw the ‘staches sprouting prominently across men’s (and some women’s) faces. On December 1, participants begrudgingly woke up and the razor won the war.  Except for those who discovered they like their new look and are putting on an encore for all of us lucky onlookers. I do my part by giving them the disapproving, “no, you are not Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck or The Swedish Chef” glance (the latter being my favorite by far).


Now that faces are clean again, the question remains: did the power of the ‘stache really impact the testicular cancer world?  Today, about 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 in the United States[1]. Now wrapping up its’ tenth year, the Movember 2014 Annual Report estimated $24.8 million raised in the U.S. and $136.6 million globally during the 2013 campaign[2]. Since 2003, Movember has raised $559 million dollars. This would be considered by most a hugely successful campaign. I don’t think anyone can argue this is a BAD idea for drawing the public’s attention and raising critically important research funds– it is a catchy way to battle a worthy cause. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, it branded a disease in a fun, interesting, light-hearted way without delving into the heaviness of the reality.  Eventually we need to see reductions in death from testicular cancer as a result of early detection.  Raising money can’t be the ultimate goal.  Movember needs to be saving lives, and now that it is a phenomenon, it can start to have that kind of impact.

So how do we shed a light on other not-so-sexy (that is, if you want to call testicular cancer sexy) causes?  Everyone would love to come up with that million-dollar baby that catapults an issue into the spotlight. But allow me to let you in a little secret – Movember was no accident, it took careful planning and some brilliant moustache-loving freaks to give birth to this phenomena.

Here are some personal insights on other case studies and my general musings that could perhaps serve as basic building blocks to your next earth-shattering idea:

  1. Mo’ Money, (potentially) Mo’ Problems: We saw a couple years ago with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure/Planned Parenthood controversy, your brand is only as good as your people. There was a huge backlash from the decision to defund Planned Parenthood, which was spearheaded by the then-VP of public affairs Karen Handel and chief executive and founder, Nancy Brinker (both of which resigned and stepped down into a more behind the scenes role, respectively). Despite being a reputable, well-funded organization, this decision was a PR nightmare by any standards. Susan G. Komen wasn’t careful when considering their audience and had some major brand rebuilding to do.
  2. Wait, what? Don’t make it more confusing than it has to be. Not a single person in the room should walk away not understanding what you’re aiming for. You have to keep the campaign simple for people to catch on. In the words of every Marketing 101 professor out there, remember KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! Literally, these campaigns started on the premise of asking men to grow a moustache or dump a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads. This is NOT complicated.
  3. Heeeey, you guuuuys! The simplicity of the calls to action also lends itself to different interpretations, thus segmenting the brand without your having to do anything at all. Think about how many moustaches you saw in November – the handlebar, the regent, the box car, the connoisseur, and many more (click here). Also – the iconic black moustache is popping up on companies’ branding like Wheaties and Aer Lingus Airline. The versatility of the brand should be able to easily cross over into different mediums and audiences.

    Photo courtesy of

    Photo courtesy of

  4. Bueller? Bueller? One strategy we are seeing time and again is the power of CROWD SOURCING. Who doesn’t want to see their man comb his upper lip proudly for 30-days straight followed by the only time of the year he will willingly post a #selfie? Driving engagement through audience participation is a solid way to create the sociability aspect and produce a viral campaign.
  5. Tap, tap, – Is this thing on? Don’t ever underestimate the power of humor…or getting weird. The bandwagon effect or fear of missing out are powerful triggers for helping people get on board with an idea. If other people are getting weird with the idea, you can too! And do it better! People respond to humor, particularly when we’re talking about a very uncomfortable issue.  Of course, this has to be done with good taste, as well.
  6. One is the loneliest number. The ONE campaign came under fire in the press in 2010 when the organization revealed that they were only donating about one percent of their funding to actual charities and mostly lining their own pockets (oops!). While this didn’t bode well for Bono, transparency is beneficial to any organization. Don’t overstate, just give the facts. Gaining trust and legitimacy upfront are essential for you and your brand.


There you have it – I hope we continue to find ways to reach broad audiences on everything from testicular cancer to marriage equality. Raising awareness is the first step to helping a lot of people – even if it does mean picking crumbs out of your man’s ‘stache for a month.


Photo courtesy of



[1] American Cancer Society, What are key statistics about testicular cancer? February 11, 2014.

[2] Movember Foundation, 2014 Global Annual Report. 2014. Financial Overview

Forging Connections through Storytelling

Jan 14

Over our holiday break, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for ten days as a gift from Taglit-Birthright Israel. History, culture, religion, and nature intertwined to mold the perfect taglit (discovery, in Hebrew) of a newfound home away from home. We began our journey as a group of 40 Americans, and were joined by eight Israelis for the mifgash (encounter) portion of our trip. The word “encounter” does not do this experience justice, as our time together manifested in some of the most impactful memories from those ten days.

Graves in Mount Herzl CemeteryOne of the most moving experiences of our time with the Israelis was when we visited Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. Our first two stops in the cemetery were the grave of Theodore Herzl and the Resting Place of Great Leaders of the Nation, the area reserved for Israel’s presidents, prime ministers, and other dignitaries. Though I knew of the great importance of the individuals buried there in those places, I admittedly felt a strange disconnect between the significance I could intellectualize and the level of emotion I was feeling. I reconciled that this was likely because I am not a huge history buff, and because the extent of my Jewish education stopped shortly after my bat mitzvah.

From there, we moved on to the portion of Mount Herzl dedicated to the Israel Defense Forces, where all soldiers are buried side by side regardless of rank. I thought about the dichotomy of beauty and sadness-one that was evident as we moved from one section to the next. My eye was constantly drawn to the ages marked on the graves…most in their early twenties.

We file into a row of graves and paused.  Amir, one of the Israeli soldiers on our trip, unfolded a piece of paper and waited for us to quiet down. He tells us the story of his friend, Oz Tzemach, whose grave we stood in front of. We learn about Oz’s selfless personality, passion for learning, and love of sports. We learn about his determination to serve in the combat field, recruitment to the tank unit, and how he was killed at the age of 20 while helping others.

Stone on a Grave in Mount Herzl CemeteryJean Luc Godard, a famous film director once said, “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” This quote epitomized the punch in the gut that I felt and unabashed stream of tears that rolled down my face while hearing about the Oz’s life and the lives of others, taken too soon. From this story came a newfound level of emotional connection between myself, Mount Herzl, and my Israeli peers.

Achieving behavior change or attitude shifts often requires cozying up dry hard facts with stories that touch the inner core of those we are trying to reach. The ability to intertwine this yin and yang of information into a compelling and effective story is an art form. An art form that is essential to our industry.

How do we make the leap from a face and name to a moving and memorable individual whose story strikes a nerve and evokes action with our audience? How do we transform background noise to information you cannot turn away from? Regardless of the method and end goal, it is essential to ask these questions at the forefront of strategy development. Without story supplementing our work, we miss out on key social and neurological connections that help our message hit home. Harrison Monarth writes, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

What inspires behavior change?

Dec 15

Making lifestyle changes to lead a healthier life continues to be a challenge for many people, especially for many Hispanics at high-risk communities living without health insurance and with limited access to health information. Promotores or community health workers (CHW) play a key role in educating these individuals about their risk for chronic diseases and the challenges they need to overcome to stay healthy and achieve behavior change. They also provide ongoing support to help patients manage the disease. But, having worked with several promotores or CHWs in the past, many times I have asked myself, what leads that person to become a CHW?

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to Juan Rosa, a CHW and the Healthy Living coordinator at El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission in Austin, Texas, to learn how being diagnosed with diabetes encouraged him to make the necessary changes and what led him to get involved in health education and help his community. Read below to learn his inspiring story.


When were you diagnosed with diabetes? How did it change your life?

I was diagnosed in November of 2012 and my life took a huge turn. So much so that my everyday life became very difficult, and the saddest thing was that I took the diagnosis so badly that it affected my life. I almost got a divorce, I started consuming alcohol, I was not eating healthy nor sleeping well and my body felt tired all the time. Also, I made the bad choice to stop taking my medicines and that did not help me at all with managing the diabetes.

Who or what motivated you to make healthy lifestyle changes?

Curiously, one day my daughter—who was 6 years old then—heard me talking about my situation and what I was not doing right and she came close to me and told me something that made me put my feet on the ground and “accept” my reality. I still remember it as clear as if she said it to me today, “Daddy, I don’t want you to lose your sight, your feet, or (you) to die yet. Take care of yourself so that me and my little sister can grow up with you.” She made a promise to help me remember the medicine schedule.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

The biggest challenge was “accepting” that I had to live the rest of my life with a disease that I did not know anything about, much less all the complications that I would need to deal with if I did not take action at that moment. Now I see that you can manage diabetes, but most importantly that you can continue to do the best you can every day to not let your loved ones be affected by the disease.

Did you receive support from family members or health care professionals to manage the disease?

Unfortunately, in the beginning I did not get much help, and not because the help in the community did not exist, but more because I was not looking for it or I did not want to do anything for myself. But once I accepted my reality, I started to search for help with friends, family members and also talking more to my health care professional, and that’s how I started to improve my health.

What motivated you to become a health educator?

I saw the need to inform and educate people in the community, those diagnosed with diabetes, and to make them realize the importance of making the necessary changes to lead a healthier life. Also, I try to help them realize the importance of accepting that they are living with diabetes and that if they don’t take care of themselves, not only will they suffer, but their families with suffer too. One thing that I really like doing is that I dedicate time to them, one thing that unfortunately health care professionals cannot do, especially with those that do not have health insurance. Now, I give one to two presentations per month and my focus is to highlight the importance of going to the doctor and following instructions. I also provide them resources that are available in the community and I am also very honest and real with them and I tell them what can happen if they don’t follow the doctor’s instructions.

From your experience, what are the main challenges the Hispanic community faces regarding their health?

Lack of health insurance due to their legal status, language barriers, education level, fear to ask questions, lack of trust in the health care professional, and transportation issues (here in Austin, TX) many places do not have bus transportation available. The city is growing and in many places, especially in the rural area, there is no public transportation.

What do you think motivates people to make significant changes in their lifestyle? Do you have an example of a patient?

A woman that came from Mexico a few years ago and she was overweight. She was diagnosed with diabetes and I was lucky to be able to work with her closely. She understood that it was important not only for her to make the necessary changes, but for her children also, with both physical activity and nutrition. I spoke to her recently and she told me that she lost 70 pounds and that she feels a lot better. She is also no longer taking insulin, just other pills that help her manage diabetes. One key thing that helps people change their habits is that we talk to them one-on-one, face-to-face and we dedicate them time to explain everything step-by-step. I think that is what makes them so appreciative and encourages them to try their best to make the necessary changes.

How would you describe the promotores or CHW’s role in the health of the community?

It is a difficult job and many people do not recognize CHWs because many CHWs do not have a college degree. Many people do not have any idea of what “promotor de salud” (promoter of health) means, but it is something very important and I am a true example of that. Behind every CHW there is a personal story that ties him/her to the job he/she does, and that makes it that much more important because they have experienced these challenges on their own and they do it from the heart. Now, the CHWs work is being seen more as patient navigation, among other things we do, even the President Barack Obama has recognized the work that CHWs do.

Its Flu Season – You Can Take Action: Get a Flu Shot

Dec 10

Its flu season, in case you didn’t know, but I’m guessing you know since if you’re anything like my family, you’ve been struck with a number of germs and bugs over the past several weeks. Head colds and stomach bugs, unfortunately. But, at least it hasn’t been the flu. All of us – me, my husband, and my son – got our flu shots about a month ago, and I’m so happy that we did if it saved us from another episode with the sick monster, or a prolonged or serious one (not that stomach bugs don’t feel serious enough at the time, but you know what I mean)!

More Americans than ever before are getting their flu shot, but the numbers are still low – less than half of Americans got a flu shot last year. There are several barriers to selecting the flu shot, including fear of needles, potential side effects, and myths that you can get the flu from the flu shot – even though you may be sore or achy after, that’s not actually true. And the flu shot isn’t a guarantee. Flu is a tricky little bugger and mutates so that some flu shots are ineffective in preventing it. Last year it was just higher than 50% effective. But that’s still considered successful by the CDC.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years as to whether or not to receive the shot, but for the last two years, I’ve determined it’s better to air on the side of caution, especially with an infant in the house. While I’ve become a little immune (no pun intended) to all of the warnings about the flu, this year with so much discussion about life-threatening diseases such as Ebola, it peaked my desire even further to protect myself and those that I love from the threats that I can impact, like flu. Did you get your flu shot this year?

How Federal Health Agencies Can Drive Engagement on Twitter

Nov 24

A study came out in PLOS ONE earlier this month that looked at the factors associated with Twitter engagement, as measured by retweets, of Federal health agencies. As someone who’s worked with numerous Federal health agencies on their Twitter content, I found the study findings particularly intriguing. Looking at 130 Twitter accounts from 25 agencies, the authors collected 164,104 tweets and examined them based on a number of factors including tweet count, number of followers, use of hashtags, user-mentions (a combination of @replies and @mentions), URLS, sentiment, and topic area, among others.

The authors found that hashtags, user-mentions, and URLs are positively associated with retweets, as is follower count. Based on my experiences at Ogilvy, I find these results unsurprisingly. With roughly half of people who use Twitter using it as a news source, users expect tweets to contain links. It is easy to see that a tweet without a link would be seen as less valuable in this context. For example, for one of my clients, we found that when the Twitter account posted open-ended questions, the tweets performed more poorly than when we posted similar open-ended questions with a link. People want to retweet tweets that they think their followers will find useful. A link is a sign of usefulness.

The author also found that a higher number of tweets is associated with fewer retweets. They note:

“This suggests that an agency might consider only tweeting posts that it regards as important so as to not ‘dilute’ the public’s attention. However, this observation must be balanced against the fact that information dissemination on a topic may be an organization’s main goal and not necessarily public response.”

They raise an important point: quite often an agency may find that one of its mission areas is not consistent with what is popular among its followers. In that case, the agency must determine how to make it more popular. Because ultimately, by driving a greater number of retweets, agencies are able to distribute their message to a greater number of people, and to those outside of their core audience base – both vital to improving reach. Experimenting with how you structure the tweet, when you send it, and how often you send the message becomes so much more important when you are dealing with an unpopular topic area.

We are seeing the co-dependent relationship between reach and engagement on many social channels now. Facebook’s algorithm is making it increasingly challenging to garner organic reach — no matter how great your content is — and encouraging fans to share your posts on their wall is pretty much the only way to spur organic reach. Plus, Facebook just announced last week that it is cutting organic reach even further for certain types of posts (although this is more likely to affect brands, not health agencies). On Pinterest, a channel growing in popularity for Federal health agencies, much like on Twitter, reach is dependent on getting people to re-pin content.

The PLOS ONE study points to the importance of 1) understanding that engagement and reach are critically intertwined on social media, and 2) optimizing your content ruthlessly for channel best practices and what is popular with followers. You have to know which of your content is popular, and which isn’t. For the content that isn’t popular, agencies have to think: how necessary is the content? If it is necessary, they need to determine strategies for making it more popular so that they can drive the engagement that leads to more reach.

What have you seen on Twitter? Do the authors’ findings mesh with what you’ve experienced?

Revisiting Point of Care Marketing for Today’s Connected Consumer

Nov 12

A good friend of mine recently found out through an annual physical exam that she weighed ten pounds more than she had expected – pushing her into the overweight category. She knew she had been gaining weight but didn’t realize how much. This news catapulted her into action. What’s the first thing she did? Go online, of course: she searched for information on how to adjust her calorie intake to effectively lose weight and she looked for apps to help her do it. While I recognize that she is just one person who happens to be pretty “plugged in”, her experience reflects growing trends in healthcare. Many of us regularly turn to the Internet and our constantly accessible mobile devices to get the information that informs our health decisions and to manage our health on a day-to-day basis.

I recently attended the 2nd annual Point of Care National Conference, co-hosted by DTC Perspectives and PoC3, which focused on how to leverage point of care communications to drive patient and healthcare provider engagement—and ultimately improve patient outcomes. The PoC3 defines “point of care” as the healthcare setting or channel (doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies) in which communications are delivered through various forms (digital, video, and print). Think of the TV screens in the clinic waiting room or coupons in the pharmacy aisle. Yet the question swirling around the conference was this: is point of care really limited to the traditional health care setting or does it happen any time a person is making decisions about their health? With today’s connected consumers and the increasingly advanced and accessible technology used by providers and patients, thinking about where and how people get “care” is critical.

There are several key ways that technology is having an impact. Thinking about point of care in the traditional way, more and more people are using their phones (and other devices) to have virtual office visits with their health care providers. And telemedicine is not just for rural communities anymore. For example, as this recent article in The Washington Post describes, the UCLA Health System is offering virtual access to doctors via cellphone, computer, or tablet, bringing point of care into patients’ living rooms. In addition, down the line with meaningful use, more patients should have easy access to their electronic records and relevant health education materials through patient portals, and presumably easier, more frequent electronic correspondence with their providers.

Outside of the traditional point of care setting, our DIY culture for health certainly leverages technology. We have technology at our fingertips (or in our pockets/pocketbooks, as the case may be) that allows us to search for health information at the moment we need it, or get tools and tips to keep us on track when we are in the moment of temptation. For example, an app called Fooducate provides on-the-spot nutritional information—and alternative recommendations—for restaurant/fast food meals (e.g., is the Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich any better for you than the crispy chicken? The answer is no, actually…) as well as grocery store items (with a simple scan of the barcode). And people are turning to the hundreds of tracking tools related to what we eat, how much we sleep, how much we eA hand holding a mobile phone with a red cross symbolizing health on itxercise, etc.

Other technology includes wearables, which could bring health tracking and patient engagement to a whole new level. There is an interesting argument that wearables are currently being developed for the young and healthy to track fitness, rather than to people with chronic diseases who really need it to track health. Yet, from the Apple HealthKit to the new Stanford Center for Mobile Medical Technology, there seems to be a desire tap into wearables’ potential to provide real data down the line that can have a clinical impact. In addition, there are also really interesting case studies from companies like HealthPrize of use of gamification to help with medication adherence, where people get rewards (e.g., points, badges) for taking their medication as scheduled. The popularity and effectiveness of some of these tools—completely outside of the health care setting—is intriguing.

If these tracking and information seeking behaviors have an immediate and direct impact on our health behaviors, should we consider those interactions to be point of care?  And, if so, how does that impact marketing and communications efforts?  Has point a care become a “moment of need” rather than a moment in a health care setting?

It’s Personal

Nov 03

We are entering a new frontier in medicine. It’s a world shaped by personalized medicine or what we fondly describe as “precision health care”. Genetic profiling or unraveling our genetic code will lead to improved diagnoses and targeted therapies so that the beneficial effects of therapeutics outnumber the side effects. Pharmacogenomics, proteomics, epigenomics, metagenomics, metabolomics and even astro-omics have and will increasingly transform how we practice medicine on Earth and in space.

I recently participated in two conferences that focused on this revolutionary approach to our health. One conference was held at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. Scientists and clinicians espoused the benefits of using new molecular markers to improve the accuracy of biopsy reports.Yet, what could have been a very impersonal and technical discussion quickly became a forum to discuss the important role that pathologists can play to enhance patient centric care-where the needs and concerns of the patient are met by an integrated medical team working at the patient’s bedside.

This past week, I also participated on a panel sponsored by Women in Bio, a professional society for female biotechnology entrepreneurs. The room was filled with scientists, clinicians, educators, businesswomen and a few good men. We began our session focusing on genomics — a cornerstone for personalized medicine — and ended with a presentation by a woman who founded an organization focused on survivors of metastatic breast cancer. I had the opportunity to sit between the two of them. In some ways, I felt like the Rosetta Stone. I could translate the complex lexicon of the scientist to the policy and advocacy concerns of a patient who very well knows the statistics but also the hope and desire for a longer quality of life.

While I do believe that the advancements in genomic medicine will be extraordinary, I am concerned that that we may lose the essential elements of what makes “great” health care providers. Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine and famous sayings, declared that “the good physician heals the disease, while the great physician treats the patient who has the disease”. During this current Ebola crisis, we need to remember this. We are seeing the impact of personalized medicine in the treatment of a disease that has an average mortality rate of 70%. Patients are being given plasma transfusions from survivors who have the same blood types and exotic monoclonal antibody cocktails are being manufactured (despite no human clinical trials to prove their safety and efficacy). These are desperate measures to treat a horrific disease which generates fear and isolation. Perhaps, the ultimate example of personalized medicine was the compassionate and courageous act of a nurse who held the hand of a patient dying from Ebola in Dallas so he would not feel alone. This nurse provided exactly what this patient needed.

Practice informing research informing practice at ACR 2014

Oct 31

With over 1000 presentations, more than 300 posters, and 1200 attendees, it was impossible to capture everything at the 2014 Association for Consumer Research North American Conference. For every talk I attended (e.g.,Choice Architecture; Aging Consumers: Beyond Chronological Age;  Interplay Effect of Goals and Planning on Consumer Welfare), there were several concurrent ones that I sadly had to forego (e.g., Consumer Perceptions of Fairness and Greed; Community and Celebrity; Gamification of Digital Services). Overall, it was interesting to see how different researchers drew inspiration from existing campaigns:

  • Silvia Bellezza (Harvard Business School) cited Virgin Mobile’s “Happy Accidents” commercial — in which cell phone users desperate to upgrade to new devices destroy their current ones — in her talk, “‘Be Careless with That!’ Availability of Product Upgrades Increases Cavalier Behavior toward Possessions.”
  •  The Choose Health LA initiative of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health appeared in Yann Cornil and Pierre Chandon’s (INSEAD) presentation about how sensory imagery can increase the hedonic appeal of smaller versus larger food portions.

As we strive to incorporate relevant behavioral research in our work, it’s important to recognize instances of practice informing science informing practice and distinguish iterative design from circular reasoning.

In some cases, it’s obvious where research intends to inform an improvement (rather than simply dissect a phenomena): Eric Johnson (Columbia University) and his colleagues studying choice architecture were fond of an animated screen capture from the Massachusetts health insurance marketplace that illustrates its overwhelming and inefficient comparison tool. In a series of studies, they demonstrate that people — including MBA students — are bad at choosing optimal plans from the current marketplace structure, but can be steered in the right direction with calculation aids and “smarter” defaults. Their paper claims that “implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.”


Massachusetts Health Connector insurance plan comparison tool. Recreated on 10/31/2014 based on Johnson, E. (2014, October). Perspectives Session: Choice Architecture. Session presented at the Association for Consumer Research North American Conference, Baltimore, MD.

Thanks to the Association for Consumer Research organizers and presenters for a great conference! The full 2014 program is available here.

Springboard: A New Online Resource for Health Communication

Oct 03

Springboard for Health Communications LogoHave you ever had a client ask you to brainstorm an idea for a new project or campaign, but you weren’t really sure where to
find some initial inspiration? Springboard for Health Communications (Springboard) is a new online resource from Johns Hopkins University Health Communications Capacity Collaborative (JHU HC3) that aggregates resources related to health communication while also knocking down the silos between practitioners through a social environment. Despite the impactful work being completed around the world, until now there has never been one go-to place to share best practices and lessons learned.

We interviewed Soma Ghoshal, the Global Program Manager for Healthcare at NetHope, Inc. and Springboard Community Manager, about the platform and its capabilities.

How would you describe the Springboard and its purpose?

Springboard is an online resource for health communications practitioners to come together and learn about the newest trends in the space. Members are able to partake in conversations around best practices, research, events, and much more in addition to networking with one another and learning about new organizations and campaigns.

Who should join and how do you sign up?

Anyone who is interested in health communication can sign up! It doesn’t matter whether you are an expert, a student, or working in the field — Springboard is a space for everyone interested in health communication to come together and learn from each other. Simply go to to register (it takes less than 5 minutes), and then log in to start posting. We encourage new members to post an introduction about them after singing up to let all the members know what they are interested in.

What types of conversations will members be able to participate in?

All sorts of conversations are happening on Springboard. We’ve seen members share articles on education entertainment programming and sexual responsibility in young adults to campaigns like the ALS bucket challenge can be applied to global health causes. Of course, there has also been discussion on health communication and messaging for the Ebola outbreak. Members post health communication-focused events happening all over the world as well as videos and photos. In addition, some members post new job or grant opportunities.

How does the Springboard fill a gap for health communicators globally?

Springboard is unique because it focuses solely on fostering discussion around health communication and offering a forum for global health events. While there may be other sites that discuss global health, Springboard does a great job of bringing together health communication practitioners from academia, NGO, government, to private sector so that we may learn from each other and offer more effective health communication campaigns.

What have you found most enjoyable about being a member of the Springboard online community?

I love hearing the different perspectives that are brought onto Springboard. If one member posts a campaign and has an opinion on it, then it is almost guaranteed that two other members will have a completely different angle or approach. Those perspectives strengthen our understanding of what motivates behavior change to make us more impactful practitioners at the end of the day.

We encourage our colleagues and peers involved in the social marketing community, and beyond, to sign up for Springboard. When you do, comment below and share your experience with us!

Soma Ghoshal is the Global Program Manager for Healthcare at NetHope, Inc. She works on the HC3 Project on the ICT & Innovation team as a Community Manager on Springboard and leads various projects, including the Innovation Webinar series, NetHope Working Group, and research. Soma has her MPH in Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation from The George Washington University.