A tough challenge in combatting obesity

Exercise project as part of Medway Can campaign

Everyone knows when they are overweight, don’t they? Everyone knows why they should avoid obesity and how to do it, don’t they?

Well, the evidence is that they don’t. One area with a high rate of obesity, Medway in South-East England, took on the challenge and brought in the social marketers.

As good social marketers, they first did their research. They found that quite a number of people regarded as medically obese did not think they were overweight. Others believed that they were following the guidelines on healthy eating and activity, but weren’t. The marketers also found that many who did think they were overweight were disabled or depressed, and would find it hard to take action.

They decided to focus the campaign on women, who are still seen as the decision-makers when it comes to eating. In particular, they targeted those they described as struggling single parent families, and families who were well off financially but who felt they had little time to take exercise.

The interesting bit for me as a wordsmith was that they avoided the word “challenge”, when addressing people. They realised that people who were already finding life difficult or were inactive would not respond to being “challenged”. However, they did and still do “challenge” local organisations to get involved. A vital part of the campaign was to involve schools, employers, food providers and so on.

The messages were all positive. The campaign was branded “Medway Can”. It described itself as a new campaign to encourage everyone to live healthier lives and become more active. The emphasis was on taking action together, using “we” and “us”. And if you look at the campaign website (medwaycan.com), you’ll see the many projects and events designed to make it easy for people to change their behaviour, and to make it fun.

The Medway campaign is being evaluated by the University of Kent.

(credit Hitch marketing)

Next, the unexpected targets of a campaign to save endangered species in central Africa.