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Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2011 Dec;22(3):387-401, x.

Social marketing: an underutilized tool for promoting adolescent health.

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  • 1Florida Prevention Research Center, University of South Florida College of Public Health, Department of Community and Family Health, 13201 Bruce B. Downs, Blvd. (MDC 056), Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.


Social marketing applies some of the same principles used in commercial marketing for the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to motivate voluntary behavioral change. It relies on consumer research for understanding the people they hope to change, including their values, aspirations, fears, lifestyle, and factors that motivate and deter them from adopting desired behaviors. Social marketing has been applied in public health settings since the 1980s for promoting such behaviors as safer sex, hypertension and cholesterol control, reduced occurrence of alcohol-impaired driving, improved utilization of public health prevention and screening services, and enactment of better school nutrition policies in schools. Although most evidence for social marketing's utility comes from interventions directed at adult audiences, its application with adolescents may help to address issues that have been challenging or unresponsive to health behavior change specialists. This article describes the basic tenets of social marketing as a behavior change process, identifies its previously successful applications with adolescent audience segments, and offers both lessons learned and projected future applications that employ emerging communication technologies.

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