Communication is a procedure that is basically concerned with the transmission and acceptance of messages which may either change people’s perception or not (Tones and Green, 2005). This delivery of information and counsel is fundamental to strategies in a well being programme development (Naidoo and Wills, 2009, p.185). This procedure and the result of its accessibility, presents impulsive responses that affect the attitudes and opinions of many people.
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Therefore, communication strategy means the use of conventional media support to pass across important information to the populace so as to enhance a change in people’s way of life (Naidoo and Wills, 2009, p.185). The communication strategy for this assignment will focus on the issue of obesity among college students in Newtownabbey area of Northern Ireland, how to raise awareness about its risk, and how to combat it through informed knowledge by reducing the havoc it can cause later in life to young adults if proper strategies are not put in place.
In the western world most especially in the UK and the USA an outbreak of diet associated ailment is affecting the general public, which had led to an exceptional increase in the occurrence of obesity and its related ailment, that have led to imperative intervention for its eradication (Department of Health, Chief Medical Officer, 2003). It was also estimated by the (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2002) that roughly 58% of type 2 diabetes, 21% of CVD and 42% of some kind of cancers are ascribed to surplus adiposity in the body. This data was supported by a report written by the National Audit Office (2001) stating that over 9000 premature mortality is recorded each year in England due to obesity related disease, which causes a reduction in life anticipation by about 9 years.
The consequences of obesity can have a serious impact on people’s health and wellbeing especially teenagers by affecting them socially, psychologically and physically. This impact of obesity was summarised by (DHSSPS, 2002; Fit-future, 2006) as
Socially causing a reduction of life expectancy by roughly nine years.
Physically causing a major increase in the risk of Northern Ireland leading destructive ailment like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Psychologically causing a major impact on teenagers’ self-esteem and emotional well being.
Physically predisposing overweight children to becoming obese adults in future.
In Northern Ireland it was reported that obesity was said to be causing 450 deaths every year which is equal to more than 4000 years of misplaced life (DHSSPS, 2002). Also it was gathered that this pandemic always lead to a 260 000 wasted productive years, which is equivalent to around £500 million economic lost (Fit-future, 2006).
Obesity in children has drastically increased in England from 11% in 1995 to 19% in 2004 among boys of ages between 2-15 years old while the same trend also affected girls of the same age range by a radical increase from 12% in 1995 to 18% in 2004 (Department of health [DH], 2005). Fit-future (2006) also reported that the level of obesity in children in Northern Ireland is increasing every year resulting in about 20% of boys and 25% of girls being overweight or obese in primary one. This has resulted into more than a quarter increment in overweight and obesity in the last 10 years among 12 and 15 years old teenagers residing in Northern Ireland (Watkins and Murray, 2005).
This is why this communication strategy intervention needs to be promulgated to ensure that young citizens are fully aware of the consequences of obesity and its predisposing factor.
Management and Theoretical Opinions
People’s way of life in relation to their health has been regarded as the origin of several current diseases, which can be controlled by exploring many models in health that recognizes the reasons for behavioural transformation (Naidoo and Wills, 2009). Kobetz et al. (2005) claimed that a well constructed and strategic propagation of a theory based health communication and identifying the relevance of the theory is a major input to achieving a successful communication.
In order to have a valuable communication strategy that is well managed to combat the pandemic of obesity in childhood, the health promoter has sourced the help of a model called the Health Belief Model (HBM) (Becker, 1974). Janz and Becker (1984) declared that this model was previously developed to envisage precautionary health behaviours. The model looks at how beliefs impact on behaviour (Abraham and Sheeran, 2005), .i.e. what a person put into practice depends on how defenceless they recognize themselves to be to the ailment, their idea about susceptibility to the ailment (obesity) and its predisposing factor, the anticipated severity of that incidence, the advantage of implementing self-protection, and the barrier to its implementation. Where such health beliefs are understood from health education or perceived symptoms, it can help in stimulating healthy behavioural change (Naidoo and Wills, 2009). This is why a college is chosen to propagate and increase the awareness of obesity pandemic among children and to suggest a solution that could be of help to teenagers.
Prochaska et al. (1992) also brought the idea of another model that suggests that individuals change their actions at some specific stages in life rather than making a single revolution. This model identifies that an individual move through several ladder to attain a healthy living only if they are aware of the necessity to make corrections.
Empowerment as related by (Tones and Tilford, 2001) was pointed out to be the major goal of health message propagation, because it help to develop individual autonomy and ensure they gain more power over their daily lives. It focuses on a “bottom-up” programme development technique (Laverack, 2005), because it tends to appraise peoples necessities before a strategy that will suit their condition is planned. An empowered and independent individual who recognizes that being obese can results into a lot of life threatening diseases later in life, which could make life miserable would tend to be cautious about the kind of lifestyle they adopt. This empowerment approach is viewed from the micro and macro perspectives, which are the self-empowerment and the community development approach (Naidoo and Wills, 2009). The former shows the extent at which individuals have authorities over their relationship with the society (Berry, 2007), while the latter encourage groups in the community to collectively discover their needs. Therefore, an approach that empowers, inform and enhance change in conduct is required for an effective health campaign.
In planning a health communication programme whose overall goal is to increase the awareness of obesity, it is very crucial that the establishment work collectively together and coordinate themselves in the same direction. This combined work is evaluated by using the idea of the SWOT analysis which considers the interior and the exterior component of an environment as a very important part of the premeditated planning process (Jackson et al., 2003). This assesses the “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” involved in planning the strategy. This assessment includes:
Strength: The help of some of the staff of the institution will be requested for volunteering role to reduce the finances of the plan, and to make student have a sense of belonging, since some of their tutors will be involved in impacting the messages.
Weaknesses: Problems might arise from encouraging food vendors to change the kind of food they prepare , because they might be reluctant in making changes due to an anticipated reduction in their sales and profit.
A conflict problem might also arise when trying to create partnership among the department that would be involved.
Funding of the strategy might also create a hindrance.
Opportunities: This strategy might help to reduce students thought of choosing to eat food that are life threatening.
Threats: This can lead to reduction of student’s purchasing power on foods that are high in cholesterol, which could affect the shops that need to make profit.
All effective organisation routine relies on the triumphant management of the prospects, challenges and the risks presented by the outside atmosphere. A well recognized technique for analysing the general environment is the PEST analysis .i.e. the Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological influences (Harvard Business School Press, 2006). The key issues pertaining to the current strategy are explained below:
Political: The existing nation policies will be sourced to ensure the effectiveness of the new strategy by checking whether there are surviving political issues on obesity, and to exercise how this new intervention will add more to the knowledge of the public.
Economic: An approximate idea of the student finances will be identified, to assess if they will be able to afford the healthy food, so as to ensure compliance.
Socio-cultural: Student belief about the kind of food they eat their environmental and peer group influence on the choice of food they purchase will be examined.
Technological: Effort to provide weighing machines for Body Mass Index (BMI) check on campus and in the hall of residence and also provision of healthy food transaction machines.
In an organizational system it is of utmost significance that the manager and the leaders in charge of the success of an organization are well equipped with the traditions and personality of the people they work with. An effective leader and manager must ensure that they play a dynamic role, designate people and resources to the right avenue, and promote success all the time (Young and Dulewicz, 2009). A manager duty was summarized by (Stewart, 1999) as someone that makes a decision on how an establishment should be run by laying good examples in practice, cultivating the act of motivating the staff, encouraging good interpersonal interaction and communication, as well as ensuring improvement of staff skills and knowledge through different improvement programmes. It was also stated by Hargie and Dickson (2004, p.8) that managers at all levels must engage in four major activities to ensure the success of an organisation, this includes: planning, organising, leading and evaluating.
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There are different management theories that can be used in planning this strategy, but the contingency theory is the best (Donaldson, 2001). It was claimed by (Vecchio, 2000) that the technique and systems of running an organization bulge down to the incentive given to the staff and the dedication of the staff to the company.
Leadership was also described by (Mullins, 2002) as the value that can be introduced into a profession which is not designated to a particular person but comes as an impulsive reaction.
In achieving an effective management technique, maintaining a conflict free team work must be the ultimate duty of a leader as well as a good manager. A management skill that will ensure acknowledging the ideas of all team members must be established to avoid conflict, because a victorious team must have an apparent goal, good interpersonal relationship, excellent communication skills and must be up to the task. This idea was supported by Hargie and Dickson (2004) when they highlighted the four major skills that must be exercised to shun conflict.
Martins and Rogers (2004) stated that to properly deal with a team conflict, a manager must adopt the ability to negotiate and bargain, which is very important in tackling a team problem. This help to create a rapport among the team members which will ensure reaching a compromise by finding solution to the conflict. Martin and Rogers (2004) also suggested that for a manager to be in full control, he must be calm, logical in his thoughts and be able to control his emotions.
To meet the overall aims of this strategy, Martin and Rodgers (2004) pointed out that it will be important to adopt a coordinated partnership approach. This will involve statutory sectors, particularly health and education, local, voluntary and community sectors such as Health and Social Trust, as well as Healthy Living Centre. Such organisations could be involved in supporting and providing information to increase awareness.
The chosen venue for the proposed communication strategy is the Northern Regional College (NRC) in Newtownabbey area of Northern Ireland, since early years of children and teenagers has been described as a period when they tend to acquire long term behaviours and attitudes (Naidoo and Wills ,2009, p.206).The NRC is an educational and learning institution where skills can be impacted in a secure and compassionate environment ,which made it a perfect place for propagating a health message ( Xiangyang et al., 2003). In view of the fact that teenage years are characterized by peer group influence, the school surroundings provides a chance to communicate with adolescent and provides learning opportunities and a secure environment to perform latest skills (Naidoo and Wills, 2009, P.207).
This strategy will focus on young children of both sexes in a college setting of age range 14-16 years old through the adoption of a classroom-based method of delivering lecture that will enlighten the students on the proper dietary habit and the kind of healthy food they can lay their hands on. This educational intervention will comprise of about five lectures, which will be accomplished in a week. Different materials like visual aids, slides and transparency that have been pre-tested in the pilot study will be used by the volunteers and the health promoter involved in propagating the messages. The visual aid will contain important information on diet and health, many food deficiency disorders, and importance of physical activity and the various kinds that will suit the student daily life. Interpersonal interactions, small group discourse and group work, as well as workshops that will comprise of the use of the slides to convey healthy eating messages to increase the awareness of obesity, that is tips that will assist them to eat well will also be show cased to augment the stuff of the message being delivered (Parrot, 2004). A follow up pamphlet containing all the messages delivered will be provided for the college students to upgrade the information they have heard during the intervention. Posters displayed at every corner of the school will also be involved to ensure students are well informed.
The overall aim of this communication strategy is to inform and raise the intensity of consciousness among college students about the risk of obesity.
The purpose of this proposed strategy will centre on enlightening student by creating alertness, which will result in healthy way of life from the scrash by catching them in their juvenile years. The objective is adapting the term (SMART), which means the aim must be “Specific for the programme, Measurable, Achievable in its totality, and Realistic to the target group as well as Time conscious” (Mullins, 2002). The learning objectives are
To create awareness about the kind of healthy food that can promotes healthy living among teenagers.
To guarantee teenagers disseminate the message received from school to other members of the families for optimum health.
To enlighten students about the kind of lifestyle they need to instill to avoid the risk of having the ailment.
To establish whether student have a prior knowledge of the ailment and its consequences.
To prevent obesity and overweight by promoting attitudes, knowledge and communication skills that makes healthy eating practices realisable.
The anticipated time for the programme would be within a three months period. Which means the strategic planning should start roughly in May 2010 and execution of the plan should begin in June and end in July 2010.
During this period the pilot study that is incorporated into the plan will be undertaken, to provide an opportunity to appraise and monitor the effectiveness of the strategy, so as to make amendment where necessary.
Implementation of the Strategy
To achieve a success in carrying out this strategy an ethical issue must be considered, since the target group are among the vulnerable groups of the society. This view was declared by (Beauchamp and Childress, 2001) where they highlighted the four famous ethical principles that need to be put in place when organising any health promotion campaign. This include respecting peoples autonomy and confidentiality, being beneficence, causing no destruction to people, and making good justice as at when necessary. Considering all this ethics the message to be delivered must be free of ambiguities, threat free, and must also be from an authentic source to avoid misinformation.
Evaluation The appraisal for this strategy must be in line with measuring the goal set down during the planning of the strategy. Since evaluation is done mainly to assess the development and the usefulness of a programme, it is fundamental to gather information during the commencement and closing of an intervention program (Naidoo and Wills 2009, p.296). The type of data considered necessary for this anticipated strategy will involve the use of the two means of gathering information .i.e. the qualitative and the quantitative method of data collection (Parry-Langdon et al., 2003). An impact assessment method of evaluation will be incorporated into the sessions by distributing questionnaires to the college students to fill in furtively before each session and instantly after the session to assess their knowledge about obesity ailment and its risk before and to measure the impact of the strategy on the college students after the intervention. A focus group dialogue will also be held among students and their tutors to establish if the modus operandi used for the programme execution was a good idea. This is needed to prove the quality of the future programme that will be executed (Nutbeam, 1998).
Obesity is regarded as one of the key health predicament facing both the developed and developing society today, and it is fundamental that society are provided with all the essential information and support required to improve and sustain high-quality health. The role of communication in enabling and empowering the populace to make intelligent decisions about life is vital to changing behaviour, and the approach in which knowledge is assimilated goes a long way in effecting change.
The effectiveness of communication depends on the authenticity of people’s daily lives and their present practices, as well as their perception towards existence.
To attain prolong success in health promotion; it is very crucial that work is motivated by using the bottom up approach (Naidoo and Wills, 2009), and to ensure all management issues are taken into consideration.
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