prompt asks us to consider the following quote: "The flower that
blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all." -
True or false?
True. While not all buds turn into flowers in the face of much
adversity, the ones that bloom are more rare and wonderful, and in
the case of public health, more effective.
Here at MMG, we are activists for health-healthy people, quality
care, and effective information dissemination. But working in the
public health space means we often face uncertainty and our own
form of adversity.
Phil Hansen says in his February 2013 TED talk, "embracing a
limitation can actually drive creativity. Seize the
In public health, we are so often working with incredibly
limited resources, especially when compared with the seemingly
unlimited resources that are expended by the commercial sector.
My experience lies mainly in the realm of tobacco, but this is an
issue with various other industries, such as food and oil. The
problem is that there there's not a lot of money in public
health-there isn't a profit to be made, and government and private
resources are dwindling. Even in the area of tobacco control,
much of the funding for interventions comes from the tobacco
industry itself by virtue of settlements.
And yet, even without an expansive outlay of resources, groups
and individuals in the field of public health have managed to make
significant impacts on a population level.
What first comes to mind for me is the incredible work of the
American Legacy Foundation for their truth® campaign.
Truth® is a counter-marketing campaign to combat the
uptake of smoking in youth.
The tobacco industry spends about $8.5 billion per year on
marketing-that's about $23 million per day, which is still more
than Legacy has in a year. And yet, the first two years of
truth® saved us as much as $5.4 billion in added health
care costs and in the first four years kept 450,000 teens from
becoming Big Tobacco's loyal customers. Take into account that
nearly 1/3 of all youth
smokers will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease, and this
translates into about 150,000 lives saved.
How did this work? Legacy had to be creative. They had to truly
know their audience and craft a message and a brand that would make
an impact. And now, with reduced funding, Legacy is becoming even
more creative with their spending. They have created and fostered a
true movement which they now fuel through grassroots efforts. Truth
not only was something "rare and beautiful" created against great
odds, but it is an effort that has stayed successful over time and
changing circumstances by being flexible in its approach.
In addition to the limitation that minimal resources places on
our creativity, the public health world is often run through grants
and other funding. This means that to continue receiving funding
for a project, it has to really be working in some capacity.
Evaluations are conducted not only of results but about the entire
process of an intervention, which ensures that mistakes are
corrected and tactics are changed in order to continue to make an
impact. Programs that aren't going well tend to be cancelled. This
means that to stick around, a program must be effective.
Although not all programs and campaigns that come out of limited
funding of the public health arena are effective and memorable,
there are some true gems that have truly made an impact.