Marketing of an Obesity Management Program

Obesity is fast becoming a global epidemic. While so far the disease has largely been limited to the developed world, it is now rapidly spreading its wings to countries like India, where increasing affluence and prosperity is driving huge lifestyle changes.

Obesity is a disease of the affluent. The link is easy to establish. The intake far exceeds the requirement. In Indians, latest research also indicates the presence of a gene, which converts excess food into fats and deposits it in the abdomen. Thus the normal paunchy Indian, (I dare say pretty much like me!) can blame his genes as well as his lifestyle for his ample girth.

Obesity has been recognised as the underlying cause of many a disease including diabetes, coronary heart disease, joint and spine related problems, and liver diseases. The fight against obesity is now becoming a huge challenge and is a great opportunity for healthcare services marketers.

Here is what they can do to win this battle.  

Design a Great Product

Obesity must be treated like a disease. A great obesity management program should include a scientifically designed and customised exercise regimen, specially tailored diet programs, counselling and of course for the morbidly obese the choice of various surgical options. These should include a minimally invasive bariatric surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon working together to offer a comprehensive surgical package.

The Obesity Program should be marketed as a package. Quite often hospitals make the mistake of focusing too much on the surgical treatment and ignore non surgical options. This is a mistake because consumers tend to look upon this with suspicion. Afterall, if the choice is between surgery and exercise and dieting, most people will choose the latter with alacrity.

The marketing of an obesity program should involve engagement with customers through a well defined marketing program.  The communication mix should include multimedia advertising including print, radio, cinemas, and outdoors advertising. It should also include a generous dose of below the line communications.

1. A Testimonial Campaign

It is a great way to advertise an Obesity Management Program. I know it is cliched and done to death by a large number of Obesity Clinics. However, I believe it always works. There is nothing like an obese person’s picture before and after joining the program to convey the benefits of the program. The trick here is to use this in a 360 degrees campaign. Use the same message in the newspapers, lifestyle magazines, bill boards, radio, TV and even in the below the line communication.

2. Public Forum

 Organising a public lecture on Obesity and its management helps connect with the right audience. At Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon we organised many such lectures on varied topics and the response was always great. Moreover, we mostly had people in the audience, who either themselves were suffering with the disease or were caregivers to someone suffering from it. These were always interactive sessions with a team of doctors, physios and even patients with successful outcomes interacting with the audience.

3.Go to School

Childhood obesity is rampant and believe me there is nothing that worries a parent more. With all pervasive McDonalds, Domino’s, Pizza Huts around the corner, and the shrinking spaces outdoors, the young are succumbing to obesity like never before. Schools, would be happy to provide an opportunity to the hospital to interact with children through lectures, talks and direct invitation to parents to help their kids stay healthy.

4.Engage Where you Can

An engagement activity with the obese at the nearby jogger’s park might be a good idea. Similarly one can engage with them outside a popular food joint, a mall or a theatre. A message delivered on a table mat in a restaurant or a small film in a cinema theatre, while presumably munching a bag of buttered popcorns can work.

5.Educate Educate and Educate

Most people suffering from severe/morbid obesity are quite unaware of the surgical options available. Dr. Deep Goel, who Heads the Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery program at Artemis Health Institute says ‘ Surgery is a viable option for the morbidly obese. In the hands of an experienced surgeon it is quite safe, is done laparoscopically and the patient needs to stay in the hospital for just 3 days’. A hospital will do well to develop literature about the surgical options available, the benefits and the associated risks. Put this up on the website of the hospital, use it as a handout to patients coming as outpatients, send them as emailers to patients with BMI index in excess of 35.

6.Stay the Course

From a hospital marketer’s perspective the trick is staying the course. Looking for quick gains from the program is foolhardy. In my experience it should take at least a year before the program starts showing tangible results. The good news is that it is a self sustaining program once a critical mass of patients is achieved. Word of mouth starts spreading fast and patients follow patients.

Pic courtesy www. flickr.com/Henry Scow

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3 thoughts on “Marketing of an Obesity Management Program

  1. You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. I must confess that you have hit the nail at the right spot. Obesity is not only fast becoming a global epidemic but also root cause of many other preventable diseases directly or indirectly. I would like to add cancer to the list of diseases you have mentioned. Breast cancer, ovarion cancer, colon and rectal cancer are some of the cancers which are associated with obesity. And by treating obesity we not only reduce incidence of above mentioned diseases but also help in reducing the financial burden associated with the treatment of above chronic diseases. I must also take this opportunity to impress that surgery for the obesity is the only way to achieve significant and sustained weight loss. We at Artemis Health Institute have dedicated weight loss programme in which we carefully counsel and opt patient for one of the available surgical options.

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