That “other disease” isn’t as sexy…

MDG #6 Logo- Fight HIV and other disseasesIts one of the world’s biggest killers, but it continues to be one of the most neglected diseases. Tuberculosis. It kills more people than AIDS, even though we’ve have the treatment for almost 40 years.

The sixth Millennium Development Goal is “Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases.” We all know about HIV/AIDS. Amazing work has been done in the field of treatment, advocacy, education and human rights within the sphere of AIDS. Billions of dollars have been spent, rightly so, on combating the world epidemic.

But for all the attention and money that has been spent on HIV and AIDS, “other diseases” including TB have been largely ignored.

Craig David and Lee Reichman speak about TB
"If I can use my celebrity to bring awareness to TB, that's good. Its important" - Craig David

And at the UN Foundation/Mashable Digital Media Lounge, UN Goodwill Ambassador and musician Craig David threw his celebrity behind the cause. He was joined by Lucy Chesire, a TB/HIV survivor from Kenya and Lee Reichman, a leading academic in the field.

Closeup of Craig David, speaking about TBThe panel focused on two overarching problems that keep TB in the dark, so to speak: Ignorance and Stigma. Most people in industrialized nations don’t realize TB is still around. And those that do have it are afraid to self-report.

The lack of public interest results in a lack of funding, too. When asked if the profile of TB discouraged drug companies from developing better drugs, Lee Reichman answered, “Yes, yes and YES! Its a non sexy disease. People don’t care about it. Drug companies have to compete for profits…” As a result, there is an increased need for public-private partnerships, in order to get the drugs and treatments that we need.

TB Survivor speak about her experiences
"At the end of the day we are all connected by the air we breathe. And its in the air that TB can spread." - Lucy Chesire, TB survivor and activist

I’ve studied stigma reduction campaigns and have noted that  advocates for many health issues (AIDS, leprosy, some disabilities) have been able to shift the discourse from a medical model to a human rights model. There certainly seems to be some of that shift evident in TB strategies – Ms. Chesire mentioned participatory programs in her own country, Kenya, and the focus on empowering people with TB. I’m wondering what kind of networked advocacy efforts are in place with (for example) immigrant rights groups… I’ll be looking into this further. Any comments or case studies are welcome!

Glenn Close sets back Disability Rights 50 Years

Glenn Close has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and has been nominated for an Oscar, but she still can’t seem to get a simple PSA right. She and her sister Jessie, who has bi-polar disorder, have recently launched a new campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness- but are they doing more harm than good?

The main PSA for “Bring Change 2 Mind,” does anything but. It shows a crowded train station with hundreds of people milling through, with a few in white t-shirts. These t-shirts have titles and labels on them – such as from sister, better half, to schizophrenia to bi-polar. The purpose, I’m assuming, is to put a face to the diagnosis…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUaXFlANojQ]

But, I have a real problem with this set up. You have PEOPLE wearing labels – isn’t that what disability rights activists have been fighting for years to overcome? When these individuals walk through the train station, we don’t see them as people, we see them as diagnoses. I don’t know Glenn Close’s sister’s name, but I know what her mental illness is…

When did we stop trying to put the person first???

And what about the people who are walking with the diagnosed? Their shirts have roles written on them- sister, battle buddy, better half. But the schizophrenics, depressed, and bi-polar  are sisters, brothers, better halves, battle buddies…..are they not?

How does this video show us that people with mental illness are real people too?

It’s doesn’t.

We are not learning anything about them as people, about their lives, their daily struggles… just their diagnosis. And in my opinion, that’s damaging.

Contrast that with a stigma reduction campaign I reviewed just a few days ago from Scotland, whose tagline is “See Me” (as in, not my diagnosis). In this campaign, the PSAs share the commonality of the experiences of the people with mental illness, AND show how the people who care for them helped them out:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chKRsULodG0&feature=player_embedded]

At no point is anyone labeled. Instead, their situation is described, concrete things to do are suggested, and in the end mental illness doesn’t seem like something we need to freak out about! It doesn’t need to show famous people donning “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts.

The only redeeming factor of the “Bring Change 2 Mind” video is that at the end of the piece, the t-shirts fade to colors, and they meld into the crowd. This is a nice touch, but only goes to undo the damage that has already been done. We haven’t gained any ground.

The more I think about it, the more I hate this campaign. The tag  line is “Change a mind about mental illness, and you can change a life.”

But how, Glenn? How do we change a mind? By wearing diagnosis t-shirts?

This campaign gives us nothing but a famous person, revealing the “skeletons in her closet,” set to a John Mayer soundtrack.

(The press that the campaign is getting is equally sickening…..but I’ll save that for part deux, tomorrow)

Can social marketing reduce stigma?

This was one of the questions I addressed in my masters thesis this past summer. Specifically, I wanted to explore how different cultural interpretations of disability would affect communication efforts to reduce stigma in developing countries. More on that later.

As I was doing research, I came across a very interesting campaign from Scotland. The tagline is “See Me,” and they have lots of interesting uses of media in their campaign. In addition to tv and radio ads, they have photography contests, polls and downloadable curriculum packs. They also have a great collection of evaluation tools.

Each TV ad has a very clear target audience in mind, whether children or adults, the ads are aimed a people who know someone affected by mental illness. Take a look:

For children-

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0G73qkwfBM]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0ii8XiRwbc]

For adults-

(My favorite line from this one is, “Patterns change, friends don’t”)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mR5QyML6Ds]

(This one has some great brotherly ribbing, showing how their relationship didn’t change as a result of the mental illness)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chKRsULodG0]

Its the subtleties that I appreciate most in the ads for the adults. The ones aimed at children are clear and hopefully incite some empathy and understanding….

What do you think? Do you have some examples of stigma reduction social marketing that you found particularly good. Or bad?

How to get people talking about condoms, in 4 easy steps!

The BBC World Trust is wrapping up a large public health campaign in India in an effort to curb HIV infections. The year long multimedia campaign began in December 2007 and has been running in 4 states. Its objective is to “make condoms more socially acceptable and improve the image of the condom user as a smart and responsible person.”

The campaign included four stages:

Stage 1- A Contest

A riddle was  distributed (via radio, tv, billboards and buses, etc) and people were encouraged to call in with their answer. Then one of the people with the correct answer would win a free cell phone with paid air time!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_PDRbdQQlU]

Nearly 400,000 calls were made by people attempting to answer the riddle, and 25 winners were randomly selected and won a camera phone with paid talk time. According to the BBC World Trust’s impact evaluation of the phase, the campaign reached 52 million men in just 3 weeks.

Stage 2- Changing sport

The second phase of this campaign came in the form of tv, radio and print ads, which integrated local culture with the message. The ads depict a kabaddi match, a team sport where chanting the word “kabaddi” during play is part of the game. In the ad, our hero wins the match by chanting “condom” instead of “kabaddi.” The ad also places more emphasis on an animated parrot, who appears throughout the campaign.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6NSwQGzZps]

Stage 3- Ringtone

The objective of this phase was to show social support for condoms, and it used a “condom a cappella” ringtone to do it! The ringtone can be downloaded for free on the CondomCondom.org website or through an SMS shortcode in India, and it was promoted through several platforms incuding websties, online games, mobile advertising, as well as tv and radio ads. So far more than 675,000 download requests have been processed, and the website has received over 3.5 million hits. The tagline “the one who understands is a winner” is further reinforced in this phase.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv0BDNryX84]

Stage 4- What’s in a name?

This final phase comes in the form of a tv ad (on both broadcast television and in cinemas), and introduces a puppy named…what else? Condom.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OUs8G-yJdg]

The campaign ends this month, but already its producers say it has reached over 100 million men and women in India. A full impact evaluation report will be available in mid-2009.