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Small Steps, Big Differences - Embracing National Wellness Week

featured / advertising research / health research / in the news
With beach season in the rearview mirror and holiday festivities ahead, I feel tempted this time of year to pull out my sweaters, find a cozy fire and hibernate for the winter. Unlike January, I find the fall a particularly difficult season to try and "overhaul" one aspect of my health - such as starting a ‘diet' program or instituting a new fitness regimen. Yet in 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) chose September as the month to celebrate National Wellness Week (this year, September 13-19) in an effort to promote the importance of not just nutrition and physical fitness, but the many other aspects of what it means to be "well." SAMHSA defines wellness as "not the absence... more
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Game Changer? Smokeless Tobacco Knocked Out of the Park in Boston

featured / tobacco / behavioral research / health research
Nationals’ Bryce Harper drew attention earlier this year when fans saw his cheek packed with what turned out to be an herbal mixture. Despite the Major League Baseball (MLB) restrictions on using chewing tobacco during televised interviews (but notably not during the game) and on carrying tobacco packages in uniform pockets, little progress has been made to disassociate baseball and chewing tobacco. The MLB player’s union has stood firm in its opposition to banning smokeless tobacco use despite health concerns and last summer’s passing of hall of famer Tony Gwynn, who attributed salivary gland cancer to his smokeless tobacco use. The union’s argument is a common one when it comes to tobacco control opposition – personal choice. New players off the field, however, are stepping... more
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Why Scientists and Communicators Can't Just Co-Exist, We Need to Co-Create: Takeaways from NCHCMM

behavioral research / conferences / featured / blog / health research

Last week, our Communication Research team attended the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta, GA. As speakers reminded us that we were there "to move the needle," I was reminded of Captain Planet. Hey, the mind works in mysterious ways. My biggest takeaway from the conference was more an observation. A path forward. A commitment to combining powers. More specifically, the conference brought together communicators and researchers - all working toward common goals and bringing something unique to the table that alone isn't nearly as powerful - but often the two seemed to be two sides to the same coin, never meeting. I heard communicators. I heard scientists. I heard communicators playing the role of scientists and... more

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When Does "Healthy" Mean Healthy? Misleading Advertising and Consumer MisPerceptions

featured / behavioral research / health research / advertising research
Walking through the grocery store, you're bound to come across dozens of claims displayed in large bright letters on product packaging: "Natural," "Low-Fat," "Low-Sodium." These words are often harmless—a fat-free yogurt describing itself, or a jar of peanut butter promoting its ingredients. But product packaging labels can also be misleading. Occasionally, a product will have a claim that is outright incorrect or inaccurate. More frequently, though, misleading product labeling uses language that implies a benefit of the product that does not exist or an exclusive feature that is actually shared by other brands. For instance, a food item billed as having "No Trans Fat!" might cause some consumers to believe that other brands of that same food do contain trans fat, which may not be... more
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Get Active! The Power of WOOP

featured / behavioral research / health research / fmg culture
A few months ago, FMG launched their first ever Get Active! Challenge. For several weeks, employees worked in teams to log their daily "steps" and compete for some great prizes. This sparked a little friendly competitiveness between colleagues, prompted some clever team names, and most importantly, got us up and moving. Being a new employee at the time, I was a little timid about sharing my less-than-ideal workout habits with my coworkers. So I chickened out and decided to watch from the sidelines. However, I knew that even if I wasn't ready to put my exercise habits in the limelight at work, I needed to work on them at home. To help me in my quest, and because I am a huge nerd, I turned... more
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Public Data and Public Health - Using Open Data to Promote Health and Safety

featured / public health / behavioral research / health research
Every two years, George Mason University hosts the D.C. Health Communication Conference (DCHC), which brings together people across the academic, government, and private sectors to discuss issues and opportunities related to health communication. On April 16-18, researchers and practitioners converged on Fairfax, VA, for this year's DCHC. George Mason University DC Health Communication The panel and poster presentations covered a wide array of topics, including intercultural communication competence, health advocacy, computer-mediated communication and health, and the application of big data to health communication research. Fors Marsh Group was among the presenters at DCHC this year, and we discussed and demonstrated how publicly available data from national surveys can be used to identify tobacco prevention messaging strategies—a... more
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Raising the Grade on Chronic Disease

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research
Over the past two decades, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has put on National Public Health Week (NPHW) during the first full week of April. Each year, NPHW focuses on public health issues in the United States by bringing together national, state, and local partners to highlight areas of improvement for our nation. Today marks the first day of NPHW 2015, which is themed "Raising the Grade." The driving force behind "Raising the Grade" is the recognition that even though the U.S. is rife with high-quality doctors, procedures, and pharmaceuticals, we are still behind other countries in key areas such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate, and prevalence of chronic disease. In particular, as noted on the NPHW website, rates in the... more
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Growing Up in an Obesogenic World

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and as such there has been a lot of press lately about what to do about the obesity epidemic. In fact I recently saw an ad for the documentary, Fed Up, which alleges the obesity epidemic all boils down to the consumption of sugar and provides insight on the role that the food industry and our own government plays in the epidemic. I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but as a social and behavioral scientist, it got me thinking about the synergy between policy intervention and personal efforts to lose weight, and the importance of recognizing the limits of individual agency, especially for children. While obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups in the... more
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Focus Group of One - Nationals On-field Experience Provides Unique Perspective on Smokeless Tobacco

featured / health research / public health / tobacco / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Don’t talk about work. This was the only advice my husband gave me before I headed down to the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals game Monday night against the Braves (holy smokes, did that really happen?). He knew it’d be hard to resist. I’ve posted a time or two (or five) about smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball for instance, click here. It’s the perfect storm for me. Health, behavior change, baseball. So many of my passions intersecting. Nationals Baseball Enter Steven Souza (International League MVP and Rookie of the Year, no big deal), who will catch for me. He opens with the classic DC... more
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CVS Quits for Good

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
CVS is telling consumers to keep walking if they’re looking to get a nicotine fix with a new pack of cigarettes or a can of dip. CVS announced in February that they would stop selling all tobacco products by October 1, 2014 as part of a larger initiative to focus on health and well-being. Yesterday, CVS unveiled their full initiative and announced that their tobacco products sale ban was effective that day, September 3—almost a month ahead of schedule. CVS Quits for Good As highlighted in the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, over 20 million American deaths have been attributed to smoking since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report (which first reported the impact of smoking on health).... more
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To change health behavior, tell a story- Lessons from the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / conferences
Last week, our team attended the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta. This year’s conference theme was “what’s your story?” and the focus was on learning how to best incorporate stories into health communication. Storytelling is one of the earliest forms of communication, and incorporating it in your marketing can have a powerful influence on behavior change. NCHCMM So, what was our story at the conference? I presented on Indirect Marketing and Youth Smoking Intentions as part of the Quantitative Audience Research to Inform Youth-Related Public Health Communication and Policy breakout session, and we were busy as a conference sponsor and exhibitor. Not too busy, of course, to attend some... more
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Into the hot zone of Hotlanta - What Ebola at Emory can teach us about risk perceptions

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / conferences / blog
Our team spent the past few days at the CDC National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta - and no, we did not catch Ebola. Many people asked me if I was worried about going to Atlanta. Based on the news coverage, I’m not surprised. But perspectives from medical experts suggested there really wasn't a risk at all (in fact, thankfully, both patients were released from the hospital this week). What gives? What gives is a common challenge in risk communication - a discrepancy between expert and layperson perceptions of risk. More specifically, lay person evaluations of risks are often predicted by affective and subjective components of risk whereas experts tend to evaluate risks (at least within their personal field of... more
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Smokey Bear Turns 70; Gets Us Fired Up About Public Health Branding

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Happy (early) birthday to an American icon! Smokey Bear was created on August 9, 1944 through a partnership between the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters. Though his tagline has evolved a bit from the original “Smokey says, Care will prevent 9 out 10 forest fires,” the underlying call to action has remained constant – and Smokey’s message is still going strong in what is the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history. http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/daramg3144/files/2014/04/FIRST-SMOKEY-FOR-BUSINESS-CARD.jpg His now recognizable catch phrase – “Only you can prevent forest fires” – speaks to a common tactic in this sort of campaign. Get people to believe individual action is important and impactful. Like the... more
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Another Big Move by Big Tobacco: More E-cigarettes Go Nationwide

blog / tobacco / social marketing / health research / featured
If you’ve been following our blog, you may have read several blog posts over the past few months on electronic cigarettes (more commonly known as e-cigarettes). These e-cigarettes are in the middle of a long-standing debate between tobacco companies and public health advocates. Do these e-cigarettes offer a less dangerous alternative to using combustible cigarettes or is there insufficient evidence to state these as a tool to help smokers quit? Or are they another way to get nonsmokers addicted to nicotine? To add fuel to the debate, a subsidiary of Reynolds American announced June 23 that it will start distributing its Vuse e-cigarettes nationwide. NuMark, a subsidiary of Altria, also plans to distribute MarkTen, its e-cigarette brand, nationwide by the end of 2014.... more
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Coverage of Tony Gwynn’s Death Likely to Affect Perceptions of Smokeless Tobacco Risk – But in what Direction?

featured / health research / tobacco / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn died much too young Monday at the age of 54, succumbing to salivary gland cancer. Gwynn had used smokeless tobacco during his 20-year career with the Padres, and his passing has people talking about the dangers of smokeless tobacco and its tie to our nation’s pastime. How the conversation is framed, however, will determine if this will be an opportunity seized or missed for prevention/cessation efforts. http://online.wsj.com/articles/tony-gwynns-death-has-mets-thinking-about-smokeless-tobacco-1402968225 Players know the risks, but they choose to use smokeless tobacco anyway. At least that’s the line they’re giving reporters. We face this challenge with our work with youth as well. It is essential for the communicator to realize that there’s a difference between... more
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The bigger victory: Nationals star discusses struggle to quit dip as National Public Health Week begins

behavioral research / health research / social marketing / youth / blog
The Nationals’ home opener may not have gone as planned, but yesterday they came through with the win and a stellar kickoff to another opening day – that of National Public Health Week (NPHW). Ian Desmond delivered the game-winning homer against the Braves, but the “bigger victory” he spoke of after the game was going the entire game without dip. Like many other tobacco users, Desmond began his habit as a teenager – underscoring the importance of prevention efforts (a key theme of this year’s NPHW). Nationals star Ian Desmond Through his description of his struggle to quit, Desmond highlighted several themes potentially key to the success of prevention efforts.
  1. Tradition. more
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She wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny… E-Cigarettes ad bikini?

advertising research / health research / social marketing / blog / youth
In past posts, I’ve discussed the frustrating genius that is Blu’s “take back your freedom” approach to some of its advertising. I’m less than impressed, however, with the sex sells tactics that dominate a second line of ads. But not (only) for the reasons you may think. Working on smokeless tobacco issues over the past year, I’ve become increasingly aware of the delicacy with which we must communicate about products that, while not harmless, may be less risky alternatives for current smokers. Blu E-Cig Bikini Ad The same harm-reduction tension dominates the e-cigarettes debate. Whether e-cigs are a cessation tool or a catalyst for new users to start a habit of smoking is hotly contested. Earlier... more
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E-Cigarette Companies Ring in the New Year with New Ads and New Tricks

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog / social marketing
E-cigarette companies had a booming year in sales and marketing in 2013 and they’re not stopping until someone (the FDA) makes them. I first reported on e-cigarettes back in early November, but little has changed to federally regulate them. Companies are still able to promote their products in all media outlets, social media included. However, some states and cities are establishing their own regulations. On December 19, New York City Council passed a bill that now bans e-cigarettes wherever smoking is also prohibited (1). This includes restaurants, bars, parks, and office buildings. Advocates of the bill said that e-cigarettes confused bartenders, waitresses, and other enforcers of the existing smoking ban (2). NY councilman James Gennaro, one of the lead sponsors of the ban, believes... more
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While the Cat is Away, The Mice Will Play: E-Cigarette Advertising Runs Free... For Now

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog / youth
Let’s play a quick game. Let’s imagine you see commercial with an attractive young celebrity on TV holding a cigarette, saying it’s a “perfect puff every time,” enticing you to purchase these so you can look as cool as him or her. Cue another scene, you’re at the race track and you see cigarette brand sponsorships plastered on the cars and drivers. What decade am I thinking of? The 1960s? ‘70s? Actually, no, I’m thinking of this decade, right now. But instead of the traditional cigarette or cigarette brand, it’s the e-cigarette (or electronic cigarette) – a new product that’s spreading like wildfire. An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that looks like a traditional cigarette, but does not contain tobacco or produce tar and carbon... more
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Kicking the (Red) Can: Coke Comes Under Attack Amid Concerns About Obesity

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog
Show-stopping tagline of the week: Happiness doesn’t come in a red can. Obesity does. The “can” the ad refers to is Coke, and the ad (part of the Howard County Unsweetened campaign) asks people to choose healthier beverage options.(1) It moved me – kind of. I saw the ad. I hit print. I hit send. I grabbed the two people within earshot, and I shared. And…I proceeded to finish the Coke I was drinking. Then for three days I’ve thought about why. I was excited about this ad. It grabbed my attention. I’m still thinking about it. But, it wasn’t enough to make me give up my afternoon caffeine fix. The fact is it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. And my hunch... more
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Hope Springs Eternal For (Sorry, DC Sports Fans) Those Who Watch Underdog Narratives

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog
If you're looking for an excuse to veg out in front of the TV this weekend, we’ve got you covered. Your favorite guilty pleasure may have a positive impact on your well-being – if it has an underdog narrative. In a recent study (1) published in Media Psychology, people who watched underdog narratives (2) for five minutes a day, for five consecutive days, reported feeling more hopeful than those who watched comedies, nature scenes, or no videos – and their hopefulness remained elevated for up to three days after viewing the final narrative. Hi MeganHope has been linked with psychological and physical health, coping ability, and commitment to goals. And, the big “so what” for these results is... more
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