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The social problem of children obesity is a very acute topic that is discussed nowadays. This paper investigates the reasons for the development of such a negative trend in the public health of Australia and proposes the social marketing program that will deal with this issue. Moreover, in the in-depth analysis of social marketing approach to the tackling of children obesity is given pointing a wide range of recommendations and further program evaluation.
It is important to recognize that children obesity is a critical issue that is placed among the most important public health concerns in Australia nowadays. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2008) the issues of growing number of overweight and young obese Australians became more significant over the last two decades. It is stated that three out of ten Australian children and young people were diagnosed with overweight or obese.
Moreover, as it is argued by the Australian Society for the Study of Obesity (2008) this figure is growing in geometric progression. In 1960s the per cent of overweight and obese children accounted for five per cent, nowadays it is multiplied by 5 and amounts to 25 per cent. This figure had to put parents into shock but a low level of awareness of the issue significance causes this figure to continuing growth. It is crucial to recognize that the most recent projections for the next 20 years in obesity prevalence indicate the negative trend and point that it will be 6.9 million obese Australians by 2025. Taking into consideration the above mentioned, social marketers should act in an urgent mode and react to growing prevalence of children obesity in Australia immediately.
Rayner (2007) argues that in dealing with children obesity problem, social marketing should be “a frame of reference or a mind-set for helping examine, understand and provide insight into issues and enhance impact and effectiveness’ of interventions aimed at behaviour change” (Rayner 2007).
Social marketing program that will solve problems with children’s overweight and obesity is planned to be titled “Cool lifestyle” with an emblem pointing a big smile. It aims at changing the Australians behavioural habits in regard to the wrong food habits and passive lifestyle. The target audience to whom the program will send its main message and who will be involved in various activities promoting active lifestyles are young families who plan to have children in the nearest future, parents, kindergarten and school teachers as well as children under 11 as the centre of all the changes.
With the aim the social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” will have a broader coverage, the organizers expect that local communities as well as government and its authoritative bodies to be the sponsors of the proposed campaign. It is important to point out that social marketing interventions in the realm of dealing with dietary behaviour implemented earlier in England had positive results. It is proved that social marketing interventions improve dietary knowledge, influence dietary behaviour positively, change the psychosocial perception of healthy diet and promote benefits of choosing healthy food. Therefore, the value of social marketing approach in dealing with children obesity and overweight as an acute social and health problem is high (Stead, Arnott & Dempsey 2013).
It should be stated that Australian social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” will cover interventions in schools, churches, youth centres and families. It will include two big blocks – change in children dietary behaviour and shift to more active lifestyle. Slogan that will be a part of a promotion campaign is “Eat healthy. Move more. Be cool”. Social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” is planned to be national social marketing campaign aiming at reducing the level of children obesity.
It is important to underline that this social marketing campaign will focus on the prevention of the growth in the children obesity level through the change in circumstances that lead to the dietary dysfunctions and change in behaviours of parents and their children. This social marketing approach will include:
- Conducting such a segmentation of the audience where resources and attention will be drawn and directed to those categories that are at the highest risk of further increase in children obesity and overweight.
- Providing an explanation of such families’ background and defining the factors that influence their behaviour.
- Directing communication to these categories at risk to change their wrong attitude due to a low consciousness or lack of support to change the existing situation.
- Distributing materials including handbooks, various types of questionnaires that will help to reveal the weakest sides of the family’s lifestyles and food habits, and thus broaden their knowledge about the healthy diet and lifestyle (McDermott, Stead & Hastings 2005).
Social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” is planned to generate 1 million responses from the parents with the children under 11 at the first year of implementation. 150,000 of these respondents will take part in the in-depth developed program to support behaviour change with a further evaluation of the obtained results. The change in behaviour is expected to be high whereas social marketers of “Cool lifestyle” will use personalized information, respondents will be asked about their own behaviour and will create the goals that will suit their life circumstances in the best way, they will measure their progress and receive a constant feedback and support from professional counsellors.
Children obesity in Australia is a health problem that needs to be fight against, not by a onetime action. Social marketing tools address improvement in a social good, therefore, proposed social marketing program should be implemented in the governmental program to fight the obesity on a constant basis. Social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” will be planned thoroughly. Planning process will include pre-stage that implies mobilizing the network in particular conducting an analysis of the social marketing environment. It is highly important that social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” will not be like traditional information campaign conducted in public health field previously and characterized as a top-down approach. On the contrary, it is recommended that social marketers of “Cool lifestyle” should be engaged with the local partners, potential local supporters, workforces, non-governmental organizations four months before the start of the program. Appropriate social marketing trainings are also supposed to be held to discuss the scale of the problem and positive results that will be achieved in the nearest future, and thus supportive local environment will be created (Institute for Social Marketing 2013).
Social marketers of “Cool lifestyle” set a complex task for themselves in particular to destroy stereotypes, common behaviour that is habitual and usually unconscious relating to the food consumption and lifestyle of the family as a whole. They need to be true inspirers to transform parents into active supporters of the new style of life which is healthier and happier. It is necessary to use all kinds of media in order to convey a clear message about the success of people that have already chosen the new lifestyle.
Social marketing program “Cool lifestyle” that will be implemented in Australia with the support of the government will cover the following areas:
- Care about children as a future of Australian nation – healthy weight and prevention of possible misbalance in health relating to overeating or other bad food habits.
- Improvements in the field of conscious choice of food products – reduce the consumption of food with the high contain of sugar and fat, and changes to adding vegetables and fruits to the daily diet more.
- Promoting physical activity with the slogan “move is life”.
- Emphasizing the long-term effects of taking healthier decisions both for children and families.
It is necessary to highlight that social marketing is a cross-sector approach that involves various disciplines to create a social good. Therefore, social marketing is a multidisciplinary system approach that aims at solving wide range of social problems and critical issues (Andreasen 2001). Human behaviour and its background are in the centre of social marketers’ attention. Regarding the children obesity issue, social marketers try to understand the reasons why parents prefer to buy half-ready food containing enormous quantity of fat and other harmful elements, why they are not against feeding their children with snacks, candies and chips, as well as promoting coke drinks and visiting McDonalds. Moreover, they analyse the reasons for choosing passive life style where watching TV and playing computer games displaced playing in the yard or going in for sports totally.
Being aware of the individual lifestyle decisions, social marketing could appeal to the weakest sides of children upbringing and transform it by involving families into spending the active time and showing the difference in health issues after such a change in their lifestyles (Stead, Arnott & Dempsey 2013). People are rather lazy creations and it is a core task of social marketers not only to point the mistakes in the food ration and the lifestyle but also to give an opportunity to become an integral part of a transformational process for their own good and better health.
Social marketing has an enormous potential to change the lifestyle decisions of the families and to be an active oppositionist to beverage giants and their lobbyists in press, TV and advertising, to draw attention to the most critical and essential issues in public health issues (Kotler & Lee 2008). Social marketing specialists understand that commerce is not only the driver of progress but also a root of harm to the individual consumer and to a society as a whole. Social marketing proposes a realistic critique to the abuse of child psychology in the food industry and identifies solutions that could balance the situation.