Engage people through their interests not yours

In the past health educators, often religious organisations, regularly used popular culture to engage and motivate the people they wanted to reach. They must have known that if people aren’t necessarily that interested in your message, you have to get their attention by tying it in with something that does appeal to them. Hence the moody but magnificent alcohol awareness rock gods above*. Nowadays it seems more like it’s the devil that has all the best tunes – and I don’t mean Simon Cowell. Commercial companies that produce unhealthy food and drinks regularly promote their products using pop music, comedy and sport.

Yet in a lot of ways these fit in more with promoting health. Sport obviously does. However, there are any number of songs in pop’s rich back catalogue about sex, drugs, mental health, death, individual empowerment, collective action and other topics. Some are deeply moving. They aren’t just catchy advertising jingles. Similarly, with comedy such as stand-up it can tap into painful emotions in a socially acceptable way. It can also show up absurdities in how we as individuals or as a society behave around health.

Historically music and humour have always been part of how humans have connected and communicated deep truths to each other. Often elements of story have also been added to make it even more powerful. As health workers we need to do all this again, whilst also tying them in with modern research and models to be as effective as we can. The guides on this site can begin to show you how. They may be particularly useful with ‘harder to reach’ underserved groups.

Overall popular culture Guide Summary

Pop music Guide Booklet

Stand-up comedy Guide

Magazines, comics and romantic novels Chapter

Crosswords Guide

Computer games Chapter Article

Football Article Booklet

At work I’ve also been investigating how to use PowerPoint to make short animated films, games and workbooks about health. If you’ve got any experience in this area you’d be happy to share with me and others perhaps we could get a national conversation going.

* The image is a detail from a public artwork in Teesside, England.