How to Progress Towards a “Prevention-Based Society”

April 30, 2015
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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wants to move U.S. health care toward a ‘prevention-based society,’ according to a recent interview in The Washington Post. He calls for every institution to recognize and embrace the role that it can play in improving health. Although his focus is largely, and laudably, behavioral, we can pause for a minute and think about factors that influence behavior and choice. If we’re not engaging people on web, social, and mobile, our ability to foster individual acts of prevention is like trying to pull out a sliver with a pair of barbecue tongs.

Top-down programs and campaigns from large institutions have lost their efficacy, if they ever worked at all. To change behavior, we in the healthcare industry have to get granular about how we influence behavior and drive outcomes. We can’t count on trust for large institutions, public or private, and interest in mass media.

Whom do people trust? By and large, it’s their friends and family. What attracts their attention? The pervasive digital world of web content, social networking, and mobile devices. If we’re not engaging people at that level, our ability to foster individual acts of prevention is like trying to pull out a sliver with a pair of barbecue tongs. So what instead?

For healthcare providers:

  • Developing and/or offering robust online resources for individuals to learn about choices, causes, and care. Education and interaction. They are already looking for it
  • Deploying thoughtful social media strategies that attract individuals and influence their actions. Steady input on healthy choices. They are already engaging there, often several times a day
  • Creating specifically mobile touchpoints that literally put your caregiving in their hands, everything from simple text message to trackers to interactive consultations. They are already expecting anytime, anywhere access
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A prevention-based society will manifest itself in many modes, and with many other players. But care providers must take leadership in the broader call-to-action.