Schools have become new battle grounds for all kinds of marketers pushing soaps, candies, cosmetics, toothpastes, music and a new exhilarating lifestyle to the youngsters. The schools view most of this as frivolous and wholly unnecessary and often resist it. Sometimes the marketing effort is cloaked in interesting events, which are entertaining and educative. Schools allow these and healthcare marketers are able to reach out to school kids through School Health Quizes, talks on diet, exercise, hygiene and healthy lifestyle habits.
Some may be wary of allowing healthcare marketers to reach out to school kids. Children are generally healthy, it is a carefree time and weighty matters like healthcare should really be no concern to them. I am not sure I agree with this line of thinking. I would have a kid grow up in an environment, which helps him make ‘healthier’ choices. As a kid I was taught the benefits of ‘early to bed and early to rise’. I still swear by it.
Healthcare Marketers can reach out to schools, with specially designed programs, which educate and inform about how healthy choices made early, allow for a healthier lifestyle later on. This should really be looked upon as an investment by the hospital in a long relationship. To expect instant monetary rewards from a school program is expecting the moon. Persistence is the key here.
Some of the engagement programs that hospitals can run with schools are highlighted here.
Most school kids look upon doctors with a great deal of respect. Many aspire to a career in medicine. It would be a great for a hospital to set up a program, where in its doctors regularly address children about a range of issues related to a healthy lifestyle. The trick is really to engage with children at their level and ensure that the ‘talk’ is in a language that they understand and relate to. A message delivered through fun and games is usually a lasting message.
An interschool health quiz is a great way to engage children. I recall ‘The Apollo Clinic’ organising a health quiz for schools in Delhi a few years ago. It was an enormously successful event. The kids participated with great enthusiasm, fielded some difficult questions with elan and competed with each other. It was great fun all around and I dare say great learning.
I believe that a visit to a hospital is a wonderful way of familiarising children with health issues. I remember the excitement of a visit to Choithram Hospital in Indore, more than 25 years ago. I was a school kid and somehow had the idea that you do an ECG on someone, who is seriously sick. I remember being disabused of this notion on this visit to the hospital. The kindly cardiologist explained how hard the heart worked beating so many times a minute, how we must keep it healthy and what do we do if it gets diseased. I know some parent’s concerns that hospitals and seriously sick people may have an adverse impact on a child’s psyche. I am not sure if this is true, however one can avoid taking children into ICU or in contact with patients, who are very sick.
School Health Program
This is what most hospitals do. The program comprises of having children go through some basic tests such as an eye examination, a dental examination, routine vaccinations and the usual height, weight etc. I recall my short-sightedness was first diagnosed during one such examination, when I was in the sixth standard. The program allows for a basic level engagement with kids but would work better if it was a part of a larger school engagement program comprising of talks, quizes etc.
Offering Children’s Health Plans
Health Insurance companies are the happiest selling insurance covers to kids. They are a ‘favourable’ selection as far as they are concerned. A hospital can bundle a group health insurance cover sourced from a insurance company along with a out patients health plan, which allows for a certain number of visits to the family physician, a paediatrician and also bundles diagnostics, preventive packages and vaccinations.
One last word to the schood head-masters. I met several in Gurgaon during my stint with Artemis Health Institute. All of them uniformly came across as highly suspicious and closed to the idea of any kind of activity with the hospital. I can understand their misgivings. However, I would urge them to consider allowing some form of activity by the hospitals. It is not the same as pushing a candy or the new lipstick. Many a hospital has a conscience and quite a few of us have our children in your schools as well.
Pic courtesy www.flickr.com/Amy