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People turn to hospitals for care and information

Hospital advertising geared towards health education

Most health care decisions for not only themselves but their children, spouses and even extended family are being made by women. As a result, hospital advertising and other marketing efforts are being targeted towards women.

“Research shows the majority of health care decisions today are made by women,” said Linda Gavin, associate executive director, South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel. “They are the ones many times encouraging loved ones to gain more information or access to certain health services. Because women still make the majority of health care decisions today it, is important to keep women informed.”

Gavin and other people in the state involved in hospital advertising said there is a strong advertising trend towards providing information about health care topics. Gavin said giving their community the information it needs about health care is the most important goal of their marketing program.

South Central Regional Medical Center has a weekly television program called Health Break that features members of the medical staff and other hospital professionals. The hospital also hosts the Women’s Life Conference, one of largest women’s conferences in the state, which is geared towards health education. Ten years ago when the hospital held the first Women’s Life Conference to celebrate the opening of the Women’s Life Center, a health information library, they expected the conference to be a one-time event.

“But the women who attended begged us to host that as an annual event,” Gavin said. “Attendance has gone from 150 the first year to more than 800.”

Celebrities such as Dr. Joyce Brothers, Ann Jillian and Mary Ann Mobley have been featured speakers at the conference.

What advantages are there for hospitals to gear marketing and advertising towards health information? Many people today have a choice to go anywhere in the country for medical services. But typically patients prefer to stay at home close to friends and families. So Gavin believes it is important for local hospitals to expand their range of health services so people don’t have to leave the area for health care.

“Hospital advertising is not really about competition,” Gavin said. “The bottom line is we are here to provide a service.”

Television advertising created for the South Central Regional Medical Center by One Way Marketing of Tuscaloosa has won two Telly Awards and two Aurora Awards. Both are national television advertising awards. The award-winning commercials used actual hospital staff rather than actors, and have an underlying educational theme.

Jeff Russell, senior vice president with the GodwinGroup in Jackson, agrees that in the past 15 years since hospitals really began advertising, there has been an increasing trend towards educational promotions that talk about healthy lifestyles and prevention of illness in addition to traditional product line advertising.

“Baptist Health Systems in Jackson has just done a very successful heart screening promotion where they have offered a variety of heart screening prevention methods for very low cost,” Russell said. “Mississippi, if you didn’t know it already, has the highest heart disease mortality in the nation. The leading cause of Mississippi death is heart disease. Baptist Health Systems felt their mission as a Christian organization with a mission to heal was get to the word out to let people know about heart disease prevention. They are offering $325 worth of heart prevention screening services for $25. And they can schedule you so you are in and out in 20 minutes. It is a great service.”

Martha Crombie, vice president of GodwinGroup’s Integrated Healthcare Solutions in Baton Rouge, La., said the trend towards providing useful information in health care advertising is a reflection of our culture.

“If you watch any television newscast, they are going to have a health care segment,” Crombie said. “Look at the covers of women’s magazines if you want see what people are most interested in. If you looked at women’s magazines 20 years ago, fashion and cosmetics were the main issues. Now the women’s magazines are filled with articles about vitamins, medical tests you should be having at certain ages, dealing with menopause, cooking heart-healthy meals for the family and exercise.”

Crombie believes the trend towards more consumer interest in health and fitness issues is highly correlated to the rising cost of health care premiums and insurance. People are more motivated to stay healthy because of the rapidly rising costs of health care.

Several recent surveys show consumers would like to hear more health care information from hospitals.

“If you look back to the 1940s and 1950s, hospitals were perceived as places were you went to die,” Crombie said. “Now there is a shift in attitude towards viewing hospitals as an information resource, not just a care resource. The challenge for hospitals is that while this shift is occurring, they still must fulfill the mission of caring for the very sick. Hospitals still depend on revenues from caring for the very sick. So it is a major challenge.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.


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