Blog Post

Cognitive Bias and Public Health Policy

As public health marketers it is our job to promote policies and behaviors that will promote informed decision making. To do this work, marketers must combat cognitive biases people may hold, especially when these biases would result in worse health outcomes.  While individual biases will always occur, we as marketers should keep them in mind when developing messaging.

Pandemics and Bias

The Covid-19 pandemic uncovered several biases within our public health systems. One of the most notable was the Availability Bias. Since the US had not experienced a large-scale viral outbreak since 1920, American populations were less likely to see Covid-19 as a major threat. Meanwhile, South Korea has been impacted by novel viruses more recently, so their people took precautionary measures more seriously. 

In the US, the Identifiable Victim Effect also had major implications to public health policy. Public health data is often given on the population level, which can make it difficult for individuals to conceptualize the threat. Early on, people were much more concerned with the availability of ventilators than social distancing and masking. The tragic stories of people unable to find a ventilator were much more immediate given the bias toward individual stories. However, while the availability of ventilators was important, proper mask use and social distancing was much more effective at decreasing the mortality rates.

There will always be personal biases that prevent individuals form engaging in public health actions. However, as public health marketers we must understand these biases to address them. The success of public health policy depends on convincing a wide range of people and overcoming pre-existing thoughts and beliefs in some segments of that population.  

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COVID’s Effect on Distribution Channels

It has been widely covered that Covid-19 crippled supply chains worldwide. As marketers we must ensure resilient and flexible supply chains to mitigate shortages and curb losses. The healthcare field in particular must ensure that they have the necessary supplies to keep people safe.

Healthcare and Shortages

Over the course of the pandemic hospitals around the world struggled to obtain the PPE necessary to keep their practitioners and patients safe. This has been exaggerated as supply chains become strained and new variants evolve. As marketers we must both increase our inventories and diversify our supply chains to ensure our operations run smoothly. Preparedness and resilience will also help your organization to build trust withing the community and become people’s number one choice for healthcare. 

It is critical that healthcare marketers ensure their facilities have robust and flexible supply chains. This not only ensures the safely of individuals but also builds trust in the brand. Diversifying our supply chains and increasing emergency inventories are necessary for an organizations resilience in today’s global supply network.

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Data Visualization and Community Comprehension

Photo by Anton Uniqueton from Pexels

For health officials, one of the biggest hurdles for starting a new initiative is explaining it to the community effectively, and the complex nature of health information does not help the situation. A large table filled with data can be overwhelming to audiences that are not accustomed to receiving information that way. Therefore, public health officials need to focus on the presentation of data. Not all audiences will have the same knowledge base, so making things clear and understandable is a must.

There is no one size fits all for data visualization. Different types of data sets call for a variety of different visualization tools. If you are looking to convey population or geographic data, it is helpful to overlay this info on a map so that people can easily find the information as it relates to them. Whereas publishing the same data in a list format might not be as clear or usable for the same audience. For other types of data, such as systems that have multiple steps, infographics are often the preferred method since they can pair text with visuals to clearly depict each element of the system.

In sum, it’s essential to pay attention to the content and audience of the message to determine the best form for that particular message. Combining elements effectively can make information much more understandable and useful for public audiences.