Department of Health moves to life course approach and streamlines its communications agencies

Published on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 14:48
Posted by Scott Buckler

In a bid to improve the communication of public health messages to help people live healthy lives and to increase the efficiency of its campaigns, the Department of Health has streamlined its agency operation

From 1 January, one agency - Freud Communications – will manage creative PR around all the Department’s public health campaigns. And one agency – MEC – will manage media planning.

Previously the Department of Health has run single-issue campaigns supported by different agencies. However, the focus for public health marketing has now moved to a life course approach, through which a small number of trusted brands will deliver communications support on all topics that are relevant to a person at that stage.

This integrated approach will deliver savings of around 25 per cent, in line with efforts to reduce spend on Government communications. However, the primary reason is audience-focused – delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.

Too often in the past the Department has held separate conversations with the same people, one day talking to them about their diet, the next about their alcohol consumption without recognising linked behaviours. The Department is now tailoring its social marketing activities through the life course, so that at each stage in an individual’s life, there is a trusted brand, providing all the information, support and resources, he or she might need.

Sheila Mitchell, Head of Marketing at the Department of Health, said:

“Freud Communications delivered a really exciting pitch. They have some big ideas that we believe will not only promote good health but will really change people’s behaviour."

“Our public health social marketing strategy takes us to the next level, adopting a life-stage based approach, which will make our campaigns more effective and save money."

“Both MEC and Freud Communications will forego a percentage of their fee if they don’t meet the targets set in their plans.”

Following the development of the public health Social Marketing Strategy, the Department of Health has prioritised four life-stage strands; Change4Life, Smokefree, Youth and Older people. These programmes will target the greatest users of health services - there is evidence that marketing can have an impact in these areas:

The Smokefree programme.

Change4Life (and its sister brand, Start4Life) which will tackle all issues relating to families and middle-aged adults. From February next year, Change4Life will warn people about drinking too much as well as diet and exercise.

One integrated campaign for older people that will take a more holistic approach to well being in later life. This activity will seek to empower older people (and, where appropriate, their carers) to seek prompt diagnosis and medical attention (for example through the cancer signs and symptoms campaign), and will challenge the expectation that loneliness, economic and physical inactivity, mental and physical deterioration and reduced quality of life are an inevitable part of the ageing process.

A new programme, targeting young people, which will seek to influence behaviours, such as smoking, binge drinking, experimenting with drugs and risky sexual behaviours, which form part of a pattern of risk-taking in the transition from the child to adult self.

The appointment of MEC and Freud Communications followed a tender process through the Government Procurement Service, which saw applicants assessed against a strict set of criteria. The successful agencies were able to communicate an ambitious programme of activity across all four campaign strands and demonstrate how their integrated approach would meet the objectives of the public health social marketing strategy, effectively targeting audiences, promoting healthy lifestyles and improving health.


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