Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: HAWMC Day 21 Asks When Do You Bloom Best?

HAWMC Day 21 Asks When Do You Bloom Best?

Project Manager

Today's HAWMC prompt asks us to consider the following quote: "The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all." - Mulan

 

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.

 

But, as Phil Hansen says in his February 2013 TED talk, "embracing a limitation can actually drive creativity. Seize the limitation."

 

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.

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