Did you know that “chronic disease accounts for roughly 75 percent of healthcare costs each year,” according to the Power of Prevention, a program and policy perspective in the Department of Health and Human Services' Steps to a Healthier U.S. program? It also states that more than 125 million North Americans live with chronic conditions.

As fitness professionals, how can you help people prevent, manage and slow disease progression? One way is to heighten public awareness of the impact that a healthier lifestyle has on specific health risks and conditions. Essentially, you can become a healthy marketer with a healthier bottom line.

Choosing the Right Campaigns

To create successful health-based programs, you must first assess and identify your community's needs and decide which audience to target.

  • Find out how many people in your community have an elevated risk for or suffer from health conditions and where they live. Check with your local department on aging, area agency on aging, social service agency or planning agency for this information.

  • Discover which organizations exist for people with these conditions and where they meet. Ask community leaders about the best ways to reach your target audience.

  • Check into existing health promotion programs. Contact your health department, area agency on aging, hospital and/or clinic, voluntary health organizations and professionals.

Does your primary audience have any of the following characteristics? Are they people with health issues related to your campaign, i.e. heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension; adults aged 50 or above; or individuals with a particular income level? Your secondary audience includes those who can influence those at risk, such as healthcare professionals, therapists, family members, caregivers, coworkers, friends and community organizations.

After you've identified your community's needs and determined your target audiences, consider forming partnerships with other associations and organizations to avoid duplication of effort.

Partnerships

Partnerships expand the resources and avenues available to reach your target audiences. But before you create or seek partnerships, first identify what resources your program needs (e.g. facilities, staff, contacts, training in programming and assessments, and funding). Here are some potential partners:

  • Approach local businesses, social service and nonprofit organizations, civic and volunteer groups, associations or fraternities and sororities for assistance. These groups may donate funds, provide volunteers or offer in-kind services (i.e. printing).

  • Solicit help from local chapters of national organizations that support health observances. These national health observances gain massive visibility and provide facilities with opportunities to build weekly or monthly campaigns.

  • Form a committee to get your facility started. Choose those committed to helping that can provide expertise.

  • Other possible partners include prominent businesses at which your program is a fit with their health education for employees; religious institutions, which traditionally provide community service, volunteers and access to elusive populations; senior centers, senior meal sites, meals-on wheels programs and college campus programs for seniors; other health professionals, such as family physicians and nurses, at workplaces or through professional associations; HMOs and community hospitals through their departments of patient education and public relations; and hospital auxiliary groups.

Activities for Outreach

Connect with your target audience through places they shop, work, worship, socialize, obtain healthcare and access information. To raise awareness of your program, you can hang posters and display or distribute brochures. And by coordinating community and media activities, you can gain avenues for increasing public awareness of your program.

Once you've accomplished these steps, make sure you step back and evaluate how your program is working. Done periodically, this review helps you identify and address problems before they become major ones, plus monitor schedules and budgets. Finally, when you evaluate your program, you allow staff, volunteers and the community to see what you've accomplished, which helps in maintaining your program's momentum and providing healthy rewards for your facility.


Colin Milner is chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging. An award-winning writer, Milner has authored more than 100 articles on aging-related issues. He can be reached at colinmilner@icaa.cc.