Regulation, public health and social marketing: a behaviour change trinity
Purpose – The paper aims to explore the apparent tension between upstream and downstream social marketing and propose these should be treated as contiguous and complementary.
Design/methodology/approach – An environmental, population-based framework is used to explore the varied roles social marketing might play in reducing public health problems.
Findings – The paper concludes that social marketers should collaborate with public health researchers to identify and ameliorate the environmental determinants of risk behaviour and create a context where downstream interventions may flourish. It is argued that the upstream measures necessary to shape supportive environments should be regarded not as constraints diminishing voluntary behaviour, but instead as the pre-requisites enabling full and free choices.
Research limitations/implications – The call for a rapprochement between upstream and downstream social marketers, and greater integration of public health and social marketing goals lead to new research opportunities that focus more effectively on consumers' choice environments.
Social implications – A united voice calling for policy change that precedes and promotes individual behaviour change may help create stronger and more supportive choice environments in which risk behaviours are no longer the “easy” option.
Originality/value – The tension between upstream and downstream social marketing risks limiting the contribution both approaches may make and overlooks their mutual dependency. This paper evaluates this tension and suggests how it might be addressed.