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Problem Description

What It Is?

The problem description will help you keep the main goal of your social marketing effort in mind. The problem description clarifies what the public health problem is, who is affected, and what you propose to do to address it. A full, clear problem description and analysis will help you decide whether to undertake a social marketing effort.

How It Is Done?

Write a problem statement

  • The health problem is the gap between an acceptable or desirable health status and the current status. To write your problem statement, briefly answer these questions:
    • What should be occurring? What is occurring?
    • Who is affected and to what degree?
    • What could happen if the problem isn't addressed?
  • Use health status indicators to answer the first 3 questions. Health status indicators are data on outcomes or their causes (e.g., smoking rates). Health status indicator data is made available by numerous organizations. See list of organizations.

List and map the causes of the health problem

  • Consider the following:
    • genetic or biological factors
    • psychological factors
    • behaviors
    • factors in the physical environment (e.g., a lack of transportation)
    • factors in the social environment (e.g., social support, or policy)
  • Categorize the causes as direct and indirect, and as risk and protective factors. Weigh the factors and determine which ones are the primary factors.
  • Determine which of these can change as a result of programmatic action? (e.g., a social marketing program can't eliminate genetic risk factors)

Identify potential audiences

  • Grouping the audience into meaningful segments will allow you to design efficient and effective strategies for reaching them.
  • Determine which audiences are:
    • most affected by the problem
    • most likely to change their behavior
    • most feasible to reach
    • key secondary audiences
  • Avoid making audiences too broad. It is a better use of your resources to impact fewer in a more meaningful way.
  • Be sure to add to the list target audiences your program is required to reach, and additional audiences that could help bring about change.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

  • A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis assesses the factors in the broader situation that could impact the implementation of your program or its ultimate success.
  • Page last reviewed: August 9, 2010
  • Page last updated: August 9, 2010
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