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Build your business by marketing health
January 23, 2018

I’m trying to build a successful business. Why should my young company spend its resources on public health?

It’s all about shared value.

Businesses and the communities they serve can both benefit from entrepreneurs engaging in public health. When a social value, like public health, and a business value, like competitiveness, can be served at once, that’s called shared value. Businesses can create shared value by adopting practices that simultaneously improve their performance and public outcomes.

Health - Business
Health – Business

Grupo Bimbo, the Mexican baked goods company, has run several campaigns over the years to boost not only the health of its customer base, but its own profits. For over 50 years, it has sponsored annual Bimbo Mini-Soccer tournaments for hundreds of children across Mexico to encourage physical activity and good sportsmanship. This helped cultivate a devoted following for the brand, as seen by partnerships with Mexican futbol stars who participated in the tournaments as children.

My business doesn’t have anything to do with healthcare. How could it contribute to public health?

Businesses can promote public health through various avenues:

  • Products and services – Some businesses can directly help public health through their regular business practices. For example, a bicycle manufacturer might host a traffic safety clinic for children. Do you make a product or provide a service that could be used by a local hospital? Get creative!
  • Think about your market — What health issues does it face? Businesses with relevant missions may act as “ambassadors” for advocacy campaigns, lending their brand to give legitimacy to the campaign and reach the target audience (i.e. its customers).
  • Corporate philanthropy — Engaging in public outreach and philanthropy expands potential markets and builds brand loyalty over time by creating a positive association for your brand.
Health - Fruit Snacks
Health – Fruit Snacks

Consider a company that produces fruit-based snacks. The entrepreneur learns that heart disease is a leading killer in his city. He conducts a survey and learns that his average customer wants to be healthy but doesn’t exercise regularly. The company could run a campaign reminding people that a good diet is only half of the equation for a healthy lifestyle. It may encourage customers to exercise by sharing workout routines on social media, sponsoring a youth sports team, or hosting a local marathon – anything to get people moving. Not only will the campaign underline the product’s value and build consumer loyalty over time, if successful, it will help shape a healthier community.

I’ve decided to invest in public health to create shared value for my company and my community. How do I do it?

Businesses with experience in using marketing for social change can help public health initiatives by running a public health communication campaign.

A public health communication campaign seeks to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health. It involves understanding local culture, using different types of communications tools while also evaluating how well the message reaches its intended audience.

Campaigns need to be researched well to be most effective. Some steps to consider:

Step 1: Understanding the problem and context
What is really going on? Consider the health situation – its size, its severity, and who is affected.

Step 2: Understanding the audience
Analyzing the audience helps you target the message. Look at data like age, gender, marital status, income, and education. Realize too that audiences can be divided based on their readiness for change. For best results,  focus on reaching people who may still be deciding whether to take action as they are more likely to accept change.

Step 3: Defining Goals and Objectives
Decide if your goal is to inform, to change opinion, or to change behavior, and how you will measure if your campaign has been successful.

Step 4: Designing messages
According to USAID’s Health Communication Capacity Collaborative, successful, well-designed messages are simple, memorable, easily understood, culturally appropriate and meaningful to the audience. Think of this when writing your message: Command attention, clarify the message, communicate a benefit, be consistent, create trust, cater to the heart and head, and include a call to action.

Step 5: Selecting Channels and Tools
Consider media access when determining how to best reach the audience, from traditional options like radio, TV, and print, to new technologies such as SMS messages or online apps. Education sessions at a clinic, community-led arts programs, peer education in marketplaces, and local festivals can also be effective opportunities to connect with your audience. Mix it up.

After completing these five steps you will be ready to implement your campaign. Be sure to collect feedback and data throughout the campaign to use in your final evaluation. At the end, write an evaluation report that is accessible to your community and partners.

Building a public health communication campaign to address a health threat or concern facing your community is well worth the effort. Done properly and thoughtfully, with support from governmental, non-governmental, and trained and informed collaborators, a campaign can save lives.


Take the YLAI Health & Wellness pledge to bring economic prosperity to your community – It’s up to you!