Media and Health: The Unlikeliest of Bedfellows?

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At first thought, it would be hard to imagine media and the health industry as obvious bedfellows. Dr. Mehmet Oz, certified surgeon and Emmy Award winning television host, would like to disagree. He believes, in fact, that a large part of the health industry could benefit by inching its way closer to the media business, and that the two can work together to better improve the global conversation of health and wellness as a necessary component of every day life and success.

During Advertising Week, Dr. Oz spoke to attendees about the business side of the health industry in the “Good Health is Good Business” session at New York’s Town Hall. By sharing the results of a wide ranging survey on women’s health in America, Dr. Oz demonstrated how frequently women, and people in general, turn a blind eye to everyday health risks. He notes that by realigning efforts with the media to help change the way we share and understand health-related information, it’s possible to break through those communication barriers, namely by way of visual mediums, such as imagery and video.

Oz offered the familiar example of showing a smoker two images — one of a healthy lung and one of a lung that’s been damaged, ruined even, by years of smoking. He explained that almost all smokers understand that smoking is bad for them, but rarely make an effort to change because it’s packaged into statistics, pointed fingers and accusatory verbiage. But by showing a smoker a visual example of the harm they’re causing to their bodies, they’re able to come to their own conclusions, and that’s where change is initiated.

“Knowledge is a big challenge for a lot of people. Even with knowledge, people don’t change. Why not? We fundamentally don’t want to fail,” Dr. Oz said. “People don’t change based on what they know; they change based on what they feel. If you make it easy to do the right thing, people will do it. That’s where the visual interface becomes important. We live in a world where if we ignore the power of the network, we’re losing our ability to make an impact. We’ve got to change our mindset, and for health and media, the is time now.”

According to Oz, one particularly startling statistic — the average life satisfaction for women is a 6.7 out of a 10-point scale — speaks to the need to re-introduce the health conversation into mainstream media, and do so in an engaging, entertaining way. That’s where media and marketers come in to help, but only if the brand’s message aligns with the what’s being sold — health.

Lifestyle entrepreneur Martha Stewart later joined Dr. Oz on stage to discuss choosing which brands to partner with and how operating a multifaceted organization, one with a central focus on lifestyle, food and wellness, makes finding the right marketing bedfellow an essential. Stewart said curiosity, a desire to constantly learn more at a quick pace, makes for an ideal candidate.

“We’re a magazine publisher, television programming, and more. We have to be aware of what’s happening. I’ve always been a devourer of information. I get a lot of my information from periodicals, from TV, from other people. I’m just really curious,” Stewart said. “It’s important to be curious to then have to go out and have to talk in an informed matter to a bunch of people.”

Asked whether she has kept up with the growing technology industry and all of the ease it makes for with everyday tasks, Stewart said she believes innovations such as a refrigerator that can calculate when milk has expired, or an app telling a driver which route is the least congested with traffic are somewhat ridiculous.

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