Tackling health inequalities using geodemographics: a social marketing approach

Marc Farr
Dr Foster Intelligence and University College London

Jessica Wardlaw and Catherine Jones
University College London

INTRODUCTION

Companies in the private sector regularly use market research techniques to target their products and services at particular groups of consumers. The public sector is increasingly using market research techniques to gain similar customer insight. In 2007, the budget for the NHS was £90bn, and it is set to rise to £110bn in 2010 (HM Treasury 2007). Recent policy has handed down power to local Primary Care Trusts, which are now responsible for, and control, their own portion of this budget. The budget is given to develop and provide services that will meet the health needs of the local population, as dictated by Government policy. The main methods available to implement these policies are education (which persuades people to adopt the new policy voluntarily by raising awareness of its benefits) and law (which uses coercion or the threat of punishment to manage public behaviour). There is growing evidence of the contribution that a third method, customer-focused social marketing, can make to improving the impact and effectiveness of behavioural interventions, whether in policy formulation, strategy development or implementation and delivery (National Social Marketing Centre 2007). This method is called social marketing. Within this process, it is natural that geodemographic classification, and its associated analysis techniques, are adopted to inform customer-focused campaigns.