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How Can Healthcare Organizations Effectively Leverage Nutrition Month?

womn-cutting-onionLast June, research commissioned by GE Healthcare revealed that poor nutrition, along with other bad habits and lifestyle choices, results in global cancer care costs of $33.9 billion annually — 54 percent of those costs in the U. S. alone. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Poor nutrition also contributes to other leading health risks including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. As hospitals and other healthcare providers observe National Nutrition Month in March, they must address how the shift toward healthcare consumerism demands a more strategic approach targeting the right people with the right information to positively impact public health.

Getting Healthcare Consumers to “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” 

With a campaign centered on “making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics hopes to help consumers along the path to better health. And the Academy is not alone. Late last year, the FDA proposed changes to food labeling requirements aimed at improving public health. The proposals, which take into account the latest nutrition recommendations based on medical science, encompass:

  • Indicating when a food or drink product contains added sugars
  • Modifying mandatory essential nutrients listed — in addition to calcium and iron, which are already required, vitamin D and potassium would be added due to their roles in general health and reducing blood pressure
  • Updating daily values for key nutrients based on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Revising serving size, and related calorie counts, based on a more realistic view of what people actually eat or drink, including those packages labeled as multiple servings when people typically eat or drink the whole item at one time

Of course, the challenge is that not all consumers pay attention to the nutrition labels. Those who do might find the proposed changes enlightening — and even change behaviors as a result. But how can healthcare providers break through to consumers who are less proactive in the grocery store?

Using Psychographic Segmentation to Optimize Nutrition Programs

We’ve talked before about how rising healthcare consumerism is requiring healthcare providers to find new ways to engage patients. Like retailers, hospitals and physicians need to tailor communications to address the many differences between individual consumers.

For an issue like nutrition, broad consumer segmentation is just a starting point. Poor nutrition is frequently associated with lower income and educational status, but a one-size-fits-all approach based solely on demographic and socioeconomic factors will likely miss the mark. Why? Because despite the shared factors, individual consumers respond based on unique motivations and attitudes towards health and wellness.

The proprietary psychographic segmentation model developed by PatientBond enables hospitals and other healthcare-related organizations to break down consumers into smaller, like-minded audiences with 91.1% predictability. As a result, they are able to hone their engagement strategies to better address consumer needs. Let’s look at how the data regarding nutrition and health from PatientBond's national market research study, the PatientBond Consumer Diagnostics — combined with psychographic segmentation — exposes the critical differences within a broader audience.

The nutrition data arises from survey responses from 4,039 consumers. Among these respondents, the psychographic breakdown is as follows:

  • 22 percent are Balance Seekers, a proactive, wellness-oriented cohort that prefers having options
  • 29 percent are Willful Endurers, a reactive group that can be overwhelmed by health issues
  • 18 percent are Priority Jugglers, another reactive group, often more focused on others rather than self
  • 18 percent are Self Achievers, an audience that is very proactive and goal oriented, giving health and image a high priority
  • 13 percent are Direction Takers, high utilizers of healthcare who require directive guidance from healthcare professionals

These distinctions demonstrate how critical it is for providers to understand how healthcare consumerism can impact the effectiveness of their programs.

In our latest research, for example, respondents evaluated the statement, “I actively seek information about nutrition and healthy diets,” according to a scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Not surprisingly, 81% of Self Achievers and 75% of Balance Seekers either Agreed or Strongly Agreed. On the other hand, 41% or fewer of Willful Endurers and Direction Takers responded affirmatively, and a full 70% of Priority Jugglers were either neutral or negative on the statement.

Additionally, when it came to evaluating the statement, “I constantly check the ingredients and nutritional content of foods before I buy them,” 73% of Self Achievers and 70% of Balance Seekers Strongly Agree/Agree, compared to only 40+% among the other three segments.

Other statements evaluated in the study include:

  • I am successful in maintaining healthy nutritional habits
  • I eat the foods I like regardless of calories
  • I follow a low fat diet
  • I follow a low carb diet
  • I avoid gluten

Interestingly, Willful Endurers are more likely to indicate they follow the various diets listed, but they also admit that they do not successfully maintain such diets.

From a messaging and communications standpoint, each psychographic segment has its own motivations and preferences.  As stated earlier, a one-size-fits-all approach will not be nearly as effective as customizing outreach according to consumers’ psychographic profiles. Messages and communication channels must be adjusted to suit these varying attitudes. While FDA label changes may be enough for a Self-Achiever to make smarter nutritional decisions, Priority Jugglers may respond more positively to communications that focus on improving the nutritional health of family members.

Are you adjusting your patient engagement strategies to meet the unique needs of individual consumers? For more information, download our whitepaper on patient engagement and activation or contact PatientBond

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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