It is with a heavy heart that I note the Department of Health are not paying attention to the evidence. They have press released their new contract with Freud Communications, who apparently have “delivered a really exciting pitch. They have some big ideas that we believe will not only promote good health but will really change people’s behaviour.”
This is quite amazing, since so far research has proven that it is very difficult to do such a thing. In fact, most public health campaigns to change behaviour don’t seem to work, or work for a reasonable length of time. Additionally, I keep finding that most keep to the inverse care law – only the healthiest notice the adverts, and health inequalities thus keep increasing.
I’m convinced, through the work of Marmot and others, that the real differences to be made in healthcare are not going to be driven by posters telling us to drink less or exercise more. Dealing with health inequalities is likely to be the most fertile area to improve health, followed by appropriate legislation – the evidence seems to be accumulating for smoking bans in public places, and exists already for minimum pricing on alcohol.
This means that I am suspicious that Freud will not produce value for money. Their clients include Pepsi, Walkers crisps, and KFC. On their website they say
“Don’t you just hate messy break-ups? Call us old fashioned, but we really believe in long term relationships. They aren’t always easy, we work hard to have passion for your business. Oh, did we mention the film screenings, premiere tickets & VIP passes? We want to earn your affections fairly, but we’ll buy them if we have to”
There we have it. How public health messages seem to be delivered in the UK.