How to Become a Commitment Catalyst?

May 01, 2010


Kate Caldwell
The US Department of Labor reports that women make 80 percent of their families' healthcare decisions. While that makes them familiar with the healthcare system, it also means that much of their time and energy is spent managing family health concerns. Yet in addition to these family-based decisions, American women have to deal with their own health issues; reports indicate that one of every two women has two or more ongoing health problems, including significant conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, depression, hypertension, and osteoporosis—all of which come with prescriptions and recommendations to change diet, exercise, and other health behaviors.

Many of these women need to make multiple, interrelated health behavior changes that can be difficult to maintain. So even if the prescription for a medication seems simple to follow, in reality dosing, appointments, tests, and refills often compete for mental focus, time, and resources.

While marketers are humane enough to understand that this juggling act is difficult, we have traditionally expected American women to change to fit marketers objectives—and then sustain that change on their own. It's no wonder that approach doesn't often work.

Change Requires Commitment

To better understand women's successes and failures around medications and related diets and exercises, Draftfcb Chicago/Consumer Health conducted in-depth interviews and an online survey of 200 women, ages 21–74, all of whom were dealing with at least one ongoing health condition.

In the interviews the women began a lot of their questions with "I should" and "I know." Clearly women are not deaf to all the efforts to educate them. But while education is important, it isn't enough. On average, women in the US have two-and-a-half ongoing health conditions and two prescriptions, and the success of their treatment often depends on changing interrelated behaviors. Not surprisingly, the more conditions and prescriptions, the less successful women are at making necessary changes. The research showed the key is that women need to commit—be it to a medication schedule, a special diet, or a testing routine—in order to sustain behavior change. The research indicated that the most prevalent reasons women are not successful in making health changes are mental fatigue, previous failures, and, critically, a lack of belief in their ability to follow through.

Information and education are important, but knowing the facts only gets women to "I should." They need the strength of commitment to get to "I can" and "I will." To help reach that point, every healthcare marketer needs to understand the three main factors that drive women's commitment to a health regime:

» Her ongoing belief in the diagnosis
» Her ongoing belief in the product
» Her belief in her own ability to succeed

Self-efficacy is at the heart of successful treatment. Women who believe they can successfully treat their condition are more likely to begin treatment, stay on it, and restart it if they get off track.

The survey found that 40 percent of women with one or more conditions do not believe they can successfully treat their condition. These women have a harder time making changes, and express more need for support. Especially when marketing in a chronic condition arena, where numerous medications have already failed to provide relief, marketers need to firmly focus on creating commitment and bolstering confidence and resilience.

Becoming Commitment Catalysts

The solution lies in a much more hands-on approach when it comes to compliance. Marketers must become catalysts for commitment. Today's healthcare marketers need to think in much broader terms than traditional brand marketing. Rather than simply selling brands or programs in isolation from the rest of women's health behaviors, we have to take a more holistic approach to helping them achieve better outcomes from their many interrelated healthcare decisions.

For instance, women often fail to start—or fail to stick with—the changes in their health behavior changes. And that's a loss not only for them, but for all those marketing pharmaceuticals and other health-related products. By becoming commitment catalysts, marketers can create a win-win situation, helping women achieve healthier outcomes while adding to healthier bottom lines.