Change4Life is a program aimed at Public Health awareness and prevention of obesity. It is a social marketing campaign linked with Healthy Weights Healthy Lives cross-governmental strategy initiative taken by the Department of Health of England and it aims to develop awareness for healthy living. Its motto is “Eat well; move more; live longer”. The social marketing campaign Change4Life was launched on 3 January, 2009 in England. Change4Life is ‘the systematic application of marketing to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social good’ (DH, 2009).
The policy aims to change the behavioural patterns of families for making their children obesity free. The main reason for the initiation of this campaign comes from Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review for the NHS Workforce that suggests that prevention of overweight and obesity would ease the burden on the NHS and the society as a whole (DH, 2009). It was found in the Foresight report, under ‘Tackling Obesities: Future Choices’ that obesity is caused by a wide range of factors, including environmental, economic, media, educational and technological factors, and in order to tackle it, it requires a multi-faceted, cross-societal approach (London Centre of Marketing, 2013).
Health has many benefits and beginning early can improve life quality as well as chances of longevity and productivity. Change4Life is aimed at the prevention of the obesity epidemic, especially children in the age group of 5 to 11 and young families with children belonging to this age group. It aimed at reducing obesity in children of ages 5 to 11 in the beginning, but currently includes all ages below the age of 11. The program also aims at spreading awareness amongst parents of all groups of the society. Change4Life was created for people to help them understand the benefits of healthy eating, exercising and fitness. The information provided by Change4Life is effective as it is based on impacting behavioural changes amongst parents and children on the consumption of food articles and on daily activities.
As an objective, Change4Life aimed at reducing obesity in children and adults alike, with the main focus centred on families with children between the age group of 5 to 11 years. Later the focus shifted to include infants, toddlers and new born babies as well. The program encourages people to follow six healthy behaviours. These healthy behaviours are “5 a day”, “cutback fat”, “Watch the salts”, “Sugar swaps”, “Choose less booze” and “Get going everyday” (DH, 2010).
“5 a day” behaviour carries suggestions for ways to eat the highly recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. “Cutback fat” suggests information about the saturated fat found in foods and ways to reduce consumption of it. “Watch the salts” enumerates advices regarding reduction of the amount of salt intake by an individual each day, ideally keeping it to below 6g for adults. “Choose less booze” suggests ways for adults to cut down on alcohol consumption to within government lower-risk guidelines. “Get going everyday” tells about why it is important to have an active lifestyle and suggests ways for adults and children to lead one cheaply and easily (DH, 2009).
Change4Life has six sub-brands under it that help mediators to promote specific issues with either food i.e. Breakfast4Life for example or an activity focus like Bike4Life. These sub-brands are Let's Dance with Change4Life, Play4Life, Swim4Life and Walk4Life. A huge spectrum of resources is provided to the people to enable them to disseminate these healthy living messages within their peer and implement them in their lives. The nature of Change4Life and all its sub-brands is based on suggestion of measures from preventive ones to corrective ones and the scope of its implementation keeps expanding with more age groups and categories of people finding their way into the campaign.
It costs nothing to participate in Change4Life. It is for free. Becoming a member of the Change4Life requires no processing fee. Its various events are free to attend or priced minimally to attract more individuals. There are other costs involved however. These costs include costs incurred due to change in consumption of brands endorsed in the Change4Life campaign.
The marketing campaign for Change4Life is compounded by the various partnerships that work in a collaboration to bring Change4Life to functionality. Some of the original partner companies include Pepsi Co., ASDA, Tesco, Fitness Industry Association, ITV National Association of Convenience Stores and Kellog’s; NGOs like Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Ramblers Association and the British Heart Foundation. These organizations help through monetary funding and brand promotion. Products from partner companies carry the Change4Life logo on the packaging as well as additional leaf-lefts and coupons for Change4Life members. As customary, these organizations are informed of all the information that is going to go to the public and act as a team (DH, 2009 and DH, 2010).
There is need of organizations that can help spread awareness on the subject of healthy eating and fitness habits in a more interactive form. Such organizations need to work at the grass root level i.e. within the people through social interaction. Social marketing and interaction is more important as people accept theories and policies given to them at a personal level. Change4Life is an initiative that began with this aim.
Change4Life follows a unique integrated marketing approach and employs a large variety of marketing channels including print, radio advertising, television advertising, digital, social media, Public Relations and direct marketing (Mitchel, 2009). Change4Life uses animated advertising technique done by Aardman Animations. This animated advertising is a part of a wider campaign. M&C Saatchi are responsible for the creative aspects of the integrated campaigning with additional services from a range of different agencies that deal in Public Relations, digital media, project advertisement and event planning and data services for online support and marketing.
The campaign is still considered to be a recent one with not more than five years of functioning experience. It is for this reason that its overall effectiveness is yet to be gauged. Interestingly though, the campaign has initially shown a good response with 90% awareness amongst citizens as of the statistics of 2013 (Hardy and Ascher, 2009). Change4Life is designed to be an everyday affair, with people offered to take Change4Life help from everyday grocery to its use. Change4Life is a campaign to change and improve food habits to bring fitness amongst people. Apart from its everyday function Change4Life also organizes seasonal events when most of the family, especially the children have offs at school, for example summer holidays. These activities include events for the promotion of healthy eating and healthy living.
The government in its primary functioning has to take care of its people. Health upkeep is a parameter in the judgement of performance of a government. Change4Life aimed at producing a generation of individuals who are fit, proactive and devoid of obesity. However, recent developments also indicate profit based interests of the government as well as partner organizations with slashing of 75 million pounds of funds for social campaigns and introduction of major consumer based industries like Nestle etc. in the campaign (Smither, 2011). Controversies surround the Change4Life campaign from the people as well, with some people rejecting the idea of a health campaign suggesting them ways to lead their lives. However, as mentioned before, such incidents are part and parcel of anything that is radically new for the people. Change4Life must be given a chance to bring out the change that it has been created for.
A Brief Summary
Change4Life is a health awareness social marketing initiative that was started as a fight against fast spreading obesity in the year 2009 by the Department of Health of United Kingdom. According to the official dialogue Change4Life “will be much more than a government information campaign. The role of marketing will be to create a movement, in which everyone in society plays their part, helping to create fundamental changes to those behaviours that can lead to people becoming overweight and obese.” The unique feature about this campaign is that it aims at everyone, not just a specific group of people. Change4Life works on the fact that everyone shows definite signs of eating habits that may lead to obesity in due time. Change4Life helps people to realise the wrong habits and correct them to lead a healthier and fitter life. The aim is to create a fit citizenship that is productive, proactive and aware about its potential. Such an aim would help ease the load on the authorities on national health, the overall health factor of the nation, the economy of the households as a whole and sustainable consumption of resources like foodstuffs and the raw material that goes in to produce such products. This social marketing campaign operates as follows
- It creates a segment model that allows resources to be targeted to individuals most in need of help (i.e. whose attitudes and behaviours place their children most at risk of excess weight gain);
- Provide insight into why such individuals hold these beliefs and behave as they do;
- Create a communications campaign to change such attitudes;
- Providing ‘products’ (such as handbooks, questionnaires, wall charts, web content) that people can use to help them change their behaviours;
- Signpost people to services (such as breastfeeding cafés, accompanied walks, free swimming and cookery classes);
- Bring together local, non-governmental and commercial organisations to use their influence to change behaviour.
Change4Life is not just a set of guidelines to be followed; it has been created as a development of behaviour for everyone, from parents to teenagers to breast feeding mothers. The approach that Change4Life follows is very simple yet time consuming because it has not been done before, and this process is called as change in behaviour. Without adequate working theories and based on rigorous research and segmenting the society into people with different perspectives towards food habits.
There is a lot of statistical data available that indicate the effectiveness of Change4Life. The campaign achieved nearly 90% awareness amongst citizens of UK. 50,000 community leaders became members of the campaign (Smithers, 2011 & Hardy and Ascher, 2009)). With increased recognition and the social nature of Change4Life, these statistics explain a lot about how it is able to spread awareness. The success rate of Change4Life in the initial years was great with nearly 80% of the population taking Change4Life as a consideration.
The Change4Life campaign has been a success without a doubt, as it has survived many controversies and speculations since its initiation in 2009.
However, the program continues to face hardships because of some flaws in its working. The first flaw is the negative approach that the campaign began with, which denied the use of certain products instead of alternating them. This had a different impact on the people who otherwise used those products freely. The second flaw that program faces that it presumed that the people are open to all kinds of health related suggestion. On the contrary, people prefer to make their own choices and learn from them. The campaign openly suggests what is good and what is not and that may have a negative impact on the people as well. The third flaw in the program is its basic mechanism of behavioural change has not been tried before and requires a lot of time to bear fruit, as the idea that Change4Life advocates requires time to settle in with the people so that they may accept them. No working theory exists as to explain what amount of time is required for such a campaign to see fruition.
Change4Life needs to attune its animation campaign more to the needs of the people instead of making them aware of the problems their preference of action may cause. The Change4Life campaign appeals a lot to the general public, especially mothers of children upto the age of 11. The campaign has a special aim to appeal ethnic minorities, for example Bangladeshis and the middle-eastern communities in England, and continues to influence them with through a non-racial highly generalised campaign.
Change4Life is a proactive campaign that aims at the good for the people. If all the flaws and political controversy is taken away the intention of this campaign is to benefit all. Every new idea takes time to settle in and every new venture requires revising to get the kinks out of the way (London Centre of Marketing, 2013). Change4Life is a completely new approach towards public health, it tries to build healthy living where it matters the most, at the family level. The campaign has seen growth, with more and more people joining it each year and the high percentage of its awareness amongst families (nearly 90%). Change4Life has also seen setbacks, with the government cutting back on its 75 million pound budget and introducing many consumerist firms in its support. What the campaign actually requires greatly is the acceptance from the people and time to settle in and begin to yield results before it can be evaluated as a success or a failure.
Without a doubt, there is need of individual and academic studies to find the exact effectiveness of this social marketing campaign. Either way, research needs to be done on the effectiveness of Change4Life with real demographic support on a more substantial basis rather than the facts and figures provided by the sources that endorse Change4Life itself. This is said in order to understand the real impact of the campaign and leave little or no room for speculation and doubt of bias.
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DH (2010). Change4Life One Year On. [report] Available at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_112529 [Accessed 18 October, 2013]
Hardy, Allison and Ascher, Jane (June, 2011). Recipe for success with Change4Life. [e-journal] Available at: https://www.marketingsociety.co.uk/the-library/recipe-success-change4life. [Accessed 18 October, 2013 ]
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Smithers, Rebecca (14 January, 2011).Change4Life campaign is insulting, says Children's Food Campaign.[e-journal] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/jan/14/change4life-campaign-insulting. [Accessed 19, October, 2013]
Change4Life Hillingdon (2013). Hillingdon People Supplement: get ready for an active summer of fun. [pdf] Available at: https://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/media.jsp?mediaid=25934&filetype=pdf. [Accessed 19, October, 2013]