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From The CriticsReviewer: Corleen J. Thompson, PhD (Morehouse School of Medicine)
Description: This is an assessment of the status of public health and its functions, with an extension of marketing theory and methods to revitalize and enhance the effectiveness of public health programs.
Purpose: The stated purpose is to provide a tool to run more effective public health campaigns. Having been involved in the health profession for many years, and associated with public health for part of that time, it is and has been clear to me that the discipline needs an infusion of novel ideas to promote the public health and to convince individuals that their good health depends on their own behavior and actions, to a large extent. The authors succeed in providing a novel approach, with examples, to changing the way that public health providers decide what programs they take on, and how they can convince the "public" that their "health" is at stake.
Audience: The authors address the text to public health practitioners, and this includes a range of disciplines and professions. Unfortunately, many who could benefit from this book may never take it from the shelf if they, like I, suffer from negative stereotypes of "public health practitioners." This book should be read by all individuals who must, as part of their jobs, assess individuals' health status and provide convincing information on what needs changing and how to make the changes. Physicians, midlevel providers, nurses, health educators, home health providers, epidemiologists, and health planners are those for whom this book can provide new methods and challenges. The authors appear to be credible but I do not see any particular information about their backgrounds in the preface or parts that I read.
Features: The authors begin by outlining the challenges that face public health in the changing healthcare environment. They then present marketing principles as a way for public health practitioners to be more successful in achieving the goal of improving health status. They do this by emphasizing how typical marketing strategies, which focus on the consumer's wants, needs, and values, are applicable to and may encourage a reassessment of the current methods used by public health providers. Their premise is that by taking the purposes and goals of public health and addressing them with a new set of tools, based on marketing techniques, for defining problems, creating intervention strategies, and evaluating outcomes, the survival of public health as a practice is more likely. One strength of this book is the inclusion of appendixes at the end of many chapters that include examples or supplementary information that is pertinent to the chapter, but not essential to the points the authors are making. Additional appendixes provide ancillary information. A list of references is also provided at the end of each chapter. Another asset is the use of two case studies, each a chapter, that clearly demonstrate the utilization of marketing strategies in public health initiatives. The examples selected are activities by governmental and health organizations related to tobacco and smoking, and the campaign by national public health organizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the CDC Coalition to secure funding during the 1995-1996 federal budget negotiations.
Assessment: An eye-opening view is provided, not only of what ails the delivery of services defined under "public health," but how practitioners of public health can enhance their effectiveness, which, in the end, is to improve the public's health status. This work is a succinct assessment of the threat to public health and the survival of public health as a discipline. It is designed to provide public health practitioners with an understanding of marketing principles and their potential applications to public health initiatives. The stated goal is to help public health providers run more effective campaigns whose goals are to change individual behavior, and to improve the social and economic environments. The authors' overall premise is that public health must alter its approach from that of "we know what's best for you and you will do it" to "how can we help you to do what you think is best for your own health."