Three years ago, at Christmas, we were playing games with my family, one of which was a quiz. Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to hear that. One round of the quiz was to identify company logos from small images which displayed only a small section of each logo. We were all amazed that our son, who had only just turned seven at the time, reeled off nearly all the logos; he identified Virgin, Argos (a British retailer), Emirates and UNICEF (the last two because of their very visible sponsorships of European football teams) among others. It opened our eyes to the advertising messages which children see in today’s world.
Fast forward to this week. I’m in South Africa with the CHIVA South Africa team and joined one of our Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services (AYFS) teams as they were going through a recent assessment they had carried out with one of the clinics they are supporting. This year they are working with five clinics in Zululand, mentoring, teaching and supporting staff in the health facilities to transform their services for youth in their community and ultimately reach the ten Department of Health standards for AYFS.
They have just completed the six month assessment – our method of monitoring progress against each standard using 240 set questions/criteria. We use the same methodology at the beginning and end of the project going through the assessment with the health facility team. It is an effective way to measure, plan for the next month and develop the facility team’s knowledge.
Being a bit of a geek when it comes to advertising, and with memories of the story I started with, I was intrigued in particular by one of the Standards and Criteria (6.2 if you’re interested) which looks at how well information about the clinic, adolescent and HIV services is promoted in the community.
Nokuthula Magwaza (our Adolescent Programme Manager) explained that at the beginning of our project only six months ago, the health facility didn’t promote their adolescent services at all. They actually didn’t differentiate their adolescent services – our work with them has changed this too. During the previous months we had worked with the team to support their efforts to promote their services to young people with the use of posters in the clinic, in the community and through other promotion.
In this recent assessment, Nokuthula has talked to young people who visited the clinic about whether they had seen posters (which the clinic had produced following our mentoring and support), whether they could describe them, and whether that had prompted them to attend the clinic. Methodology used by advertising agencies in focus groups around the world. The results have been impressive – with young people attending this clinic able to describe the design of the posters, tell us that they had seen them at their school, and that it had prompted them to attend the clinic. A job well done.
We all know that advertising works. And we know that our children and teenagers absorb all of these messages. Otherwise companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars, pounds and Rand each year. But is the value and benefit that health promotion to this younger generation can have that is sometimes forgotten – an empowered health facility team who know how to promote their services (that’s the really important bit!) creating simple posters to put up in their local school is getting young people to clinic – that is an important change not just for this generation but for future generations too.