• Article

Applying Social Marketing in Health Care: Communicating Evidence to Change Consumer Behavior

Social marketing uses commercial marketing strategies to change individual and organizational behavior and policies. It has been effective on a population level across a wide range of public health and health care domains. There is limited evidence of the effectiveness of social marketing in changing health care consumer behavior through its impact on patient-provider interaction or provider behavior. Social marketers need to identify translatable strategies (e.g., competition analysis, branding, and tailored messages) that can be applied to health care provider and consumer behavior. Three case studies from social marketing illustrate potential strategies to change provider and consumer behavior. Countermarketing is a rapidly growing social marketing strategy that has been effective in tobacco control and may be effective in countering pharmaceutical marketing using specific message strategies. Informed decision making is a useful strategy when there is medical uncertainty, such as in prostate cancer screening and treatment. Pharmaceutical industry marketing practices offer valuable lessons for developing competing messages to reach providers and consumers. Social marketing is an effective population-based behavior change strategy that can be applied in individual clinical settings and as a complement to reinforce messages communicated on a population level. There is a need for more research on message strategies that work in health care and population-level effectiveness studies.


Evans, W., & McCormack, L. (2008). Applying Social Marketing in Health Care: Communicating Evidence to Change Consumer Behavior. Medical Decision Making, 28(5), 781-792. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272989X08318464