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Strategies for Wellness Behavior Change Messaging – National Wellness Week

featured / blog / health research / public health / communication research
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched this week its annual National Wellness Week event, a public health effort in which the agency reminds us to pay attention to our wellness. According to SAMHSA, there are eight dimensions of wellness—some more obvious and others less so—that include physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, financial, occupational, and social aspects of behavioral health. Hypothetically, if we find ourselves wanting to change our behavior and improve one of these vital areas of our lives, how should we go about doing so? In the past few years, a lot of research has suggested that behavioral changes could dramatically reduce cancer risk. A recent study estimated that if everyone engaged in four healthy lifestyle behaviors—not smoking,... more
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Tried and True Innovation: Highlights from NCHCMM 2016

communication / research / conferences / featured / social marketing / public health
Last week several members of the FMG Team traveled to Atlanta, GA for the 10th Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media (NCHCMM). This was the third year that FMG attended the conference, and as in the past, had a chance to walk away with lessons learned and best practices from communicators and scientists.  NCHCMM 10th Anniversary One of my favorite conference sessions featured panel members: Dr. Lenora Johnson, Tony Foleno, Dr. Gary Kreps, and Dr. Heather Cole-Lewis reflecting on the past 10 years and speculating what the next 10 will bring. Most notably, in the last 10 years there’s been a substantial shift in the way we communicate. For instance,... more
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Fear the Cookie Dough

featured / public health / communication / advertising research
Fight Bac | Food Safety As a mom of two kids I am the first to admit that I’ve not only consumed raw cookie dough myself, but also let my children lick the batter off the spoon (cue my guilt and shame as a public health researcher).It is likely that many consumers are aware of the risks for foodborne illness (from the raw eggs) in cookie dough – yet like me continue to eat it. Like many health behaviors, this begs the question "if we know the risks, why do we still do it?" This week’s announcement by the FDA may slow cookie dough consumption (temporarily) but it’s not likely to last. Food... more
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The Formidable Journey to Quality Healthcare for All

featured / public health / health communication / behavioral change
Early April in D.C. typically marks cherry blossom season; however this year’s early bloom means we’re freed up to celebrate other important events like National Public Health Week. While it may not be as festive, NPHW is a time of year to recognize not only what we’ve accomplished in public health but also what is left to be done. This year’s theme, to “make the U.S. the healthiest Nation in One Generation,” establishes a vision for vastly improving the health of our country by 2030. Achieving this vision requires not only transformation in the policy and structure of our healthcare system but also health behavior change at the community, family and individual level. One objective of this vision is to achieve "quality healthcare... more
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Entertainment Education for Creatively Changing Health Behaviors

featured / communication research / public health / advertising / communication
After seeing the Academy Award-winning movie The Big Short, I completely agree with the praise the film received at the Oscars for distilling complicated economic concepts into terms that regular folks like you and I can understand. The Big Short is just one example of how entertainment media can be successful in educating people—not despite the fact it's entertaining but rather because it's entertaining. Entertainment education is a communication strategy in which theories of communication, education, psychology, and drama are used to create an education and behavior change message for addressing social issues. That message is then woven into an appealing and persuasive media format to reach a specific media audience. Entertainment education has been used in countries around the world to successfully increase understanding... more
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Deadpool not the only antihero in town - Communication's role in the Zika virus narrative

featured / communication research / public health / advertising
"Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story." Deadpool. There's just something about an R-rated, violent, off-color, superhero movie that screams: risk communication and public health. No, it's just me? Everyone has a favorite antihero though. Same story (even if self-mocking), different kind of character. Communication too can find itself unexpectedly taking center stage in public health crisis response narratives often dominated by medicine and natural sciences. For example, communication was a theme of last year's WHO leadership statement on the Ebola response. We have learned the importance of communication - of communicating risks early, of communicating more clearly what is needed, and of involving communities and their leaders in the messaging…We will communicate better. We commit to provide... more
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From "Netflix & Chill Night" to StonerSloth - The Road to (Messaging) Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

featured / communication research / public health / advertising
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes bad things happen to good causes. One day you're celebrating a new campaign and the next you're pulling an ad after a segment on the Daily Show calls attention to the inherent (or sometimes unanticipated) risk associated with the messaging strategy. Daily Show Don't Jerk Take last week for example. Suddenly everyone seemed to be as enthusiastic about alcohol messaging as we are. A recently released infographic intended to raise awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders had struck a chord - but, unfortunately as it turned out, not in a good way. Reactions like shaming, shady, scare tactics, condescending, and offensive certainly would have... more
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Spreading the Word… Not the Zika Virus- Tips from Health and Risk Communicators

featured / communication research / public health / risk communication
If you've seen the news lately (or Twitter for that matter) you've probably heard about what the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling a public health emergency - a mosquito-borne illness called the Zika virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and until recently, outbreaks have mostly occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. However, a recent "explosion" of infections in parts of Latin America - as well as a reported linkage between the virus and a severe birth defect known as microcephaly - has caught the attention of the world. On Monday, the Director-General of the WHO urged the... more
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On Socks and Social Marketing - Honoring World AIDS Day

communication / communication research / featured / public health
More than 30 years since the first reported cases of AIDS, what does progress look like? From its origins in fear and death, HIV has become a preventable, treatable, and hope-filled chronic illness. Though there has been significant progress both scientifically and socially, there is clearly much progress to be made – HIV is a leading cause of death by infectious disease, and fear, misperceptions, and stigma are still a very real challenge. Take, for example, the media stir last month when Charlie Sheen revealed on the Today Show that he is HIV-positive. Sheen shared that he decided to make his health status public because recent partners allegedly threatened to disclose his diagnosis, blackmailing him for millions of dollars. His situation – and... more
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Sure, It's Bad — But Will It Ever Happen to Me? Looking Back on National Preparedness Month

featured / behavior economics / public health / in the news
This past September, a range of organizations—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Red Cross, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency—participated in 2015's National Preparedness Month. Throughout the month, these and other organizations have been encouraging individuals and community groups to (1) learn what protective measures they should take before, during, and after emergency events, like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires; (2) make a plan to implement those measures and stay informed of emergencies; and (3) seek out ways to support community preparedness. Visit Ready.gov for more information on actions you can take to be prepared. Looking back on the past month, and reflecting on the... 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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FMG Employees Get Active!

fmg culture / employee health / public health / featured
With warmer weather on the horizon and a number of employees suffering from cabin fever, it is the perfect time to implement a Get Active! Challenge in the office. Although one can debate the success of office wellness programs, the truth is, if implemented for the right reason - to benefit employees - the downside is pretty much non-existent. In our case, we've decided to tackle one issue at a time, with the first of many wellness efforts aimed at moving more. We are in a field that desk work is part of the territory, and we've all had days where you get so wrapped up in what you are doing, and realize you've barely walked 2,000 steps by 3pm. This type of inactivity is... more
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Shock to the (Stable) System - Applying Dynamics to Smokeless Tobacco Use

communication research / public health / tobacco / conferences / featured
This past weekend at the Western Communication Association Convention in Spokane, WA, a colleague of mine, Josh Nelson, presented a paper titled, Toward the Scientific Study of Dynamic Communication Processes. Along with Josh, Professor John Sherry, and Esther Paik, I was fortunate enough to be one of the paper's co-authors, and I have been thinking quite a bit about what this paper can offer applied researchers and practitioners. Although the paper is primarily theoretical, its ideas offer some food for thought when approaching public health issues. As with any applied endeavor, before translating the paper's ideas into practice, some explanation is needed. What are dynamics? Dynamics refer broadly to phenomena that display time-changing patterns—in other words, dynamic processes are those that... more
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At APHA, We Are Reminded Why We Do Public Health

featured / communication research / public health / conferences
Wednesday marked the close of the American Public Health Association's (APHA's) Annual Meeting and Exposition, and what a fantastic several days it was. In excess of 12,000 attendees, nearly 500 exhibitors, more than 1,000 sessions (30+ sessions in the health communication section alone), and one take-home message to sum it up: Never lose sight of why we do what we do. APHA 2014 Why public health? Answers to this question were at every turn this week, before even arriving at the conference. Reagan airport was covered in reminders that "health is everything," as though CVS knew we were coming. I loved the phrase when CVS unveiled its new branding, and it rings true every time I see... 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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