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Taking a strengths-based approach to health promotion for men

An upcoming conference hosted by RMIT on 28th April in Melbourne explores the ways social marketing can more effectively influence men by taking a strengths-based approach in framing messages.

Social marketing researcher Mike Reid, an organiser of Challenging Assumptions of Customer Vulnerability: Rethinking and Reshaping, says many communication strategies miss the mark because they focus on what men are doing wrong.

“They take a negative approach, ‘you lack this, you lack that … you’re homeless, you’re illiterate, you should be better at getting help,’” he says.

“It puts people’s hackles up. The deficiency-based approach is very paternalistic. ‘We know best, and we know how you can improve yourself.’”

“People do have agency, people do have capabilities, people do have skills. How do we leverage these and support people with varying capabilities to help them achieve what they want to achieve? This is where the conference sits.”

In order for communication strategies to go beyond raising awareness, they need to understand men in a nuanced way, says Mike, who will present his own research on men’s health in a session titled: Not All Middle-Aged Men are Helpless and Hopeless: implications for reimagining health promotion.

 “The communication journey from raising awareness to being motivated enough to do something about it, that message must be crafted in such a sway that it engages specific groups of men. Strengths-based approach is empowering, not blaming.”

His research is split into three projects.

The first is drawn from a survey of 500 men, to get a sense of how they are experiencing mid-life, and whether having a purpose in life overcomes issues of burnout and apathy. He also surveyed 600 men on help-seeking behaviour and, not surprisingly, found that those with a higher level of literacy have a capacity to overcome challenges related to poor health and are more likely to engage health services.

“From a social marketing perspective, how do we create programs that work with the different literacies? No one has no health literacy. In order to improve, we need to understand the nuance and use it to craft the right messages and support those with varying health literacies.”

Thirdly, he analysed data from the Ten to Men longitudinal study, with a view to understanding which men were doing poorly, and who were doing well.  

“Do we just focus on those doing poorly? How do we talk to the men who are doing well and encourage them on their journey?” he asks.  

His presentation will outline strengths-based considerations in reaching and communicating with midlife men.

The 1st Australian Customer Vulnerability Symposium is hosted by RMIT’s Australian Association of Social Marketing, Consumer Wellbeing Research Group.

It is designed for industry, policymakers, communicators, NGOs, not-for-profits, academics, and others who work with customers experiencing vulnerability.

Attendees will learn how to "engage people in ways that draw on their capabilities and provide them with a sense of agency and dignity".

There are 20 speakers including keynotes from:

  • Amanda Fosters, Customer Advocate Manager Suncorp Bank: Creating Better Outcomes for Customers Experiencing Vulnerability 
  • Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Co-Director Centre for Behavioural Economics, Society and Technology (BEST), Queensland University of Technology: The Case for a Strengths-Based Approach to Customer Vulnerability – Why Reframing Our Perspective is so Important
  • Liz Duniec, Director and Lucy Marshall, Senior Research Manager, ORIMA Research: Vulnerability from a Social Research Perspective.  

View the program, price and registration details

[Participants can attend in person or online]



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