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Communication and marketing as tools to cultivate the public's health: a proposed "people and places" framework

Edward W Maibach1*, Lorien C Abroms1 and Mark Marosits2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Prevention and Community Health, George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services, 2175 K Street, Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20037, USA

2 Worldways Social Marketing, 6030 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Suite 110, Greenwood Village, CO, 80111, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:88  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-88

Published: 22 May 2007



Communication and marketing are rapidly becoming recognized as core functions, or core competencies, in the field of public health. Although these disciplines have fostered considerable academic inquiry, a coherent sense of precisely how these disciplines can inform the practice of public health has been slower to emerge.


In this article we propose a framework – based on contemporary ecological models of health – to explain how communication and marketing can be used to advance public health objectives. The framework identifies the attributes of people (as individuals, as social networks, and as communities or populations) and places that influence health behaviors and health. Communication, i.e., the provision of information, can be used in a variety of ways to foster beneficial change among both people (e.g., activating social support for smoking cessation among peers) and places (e.g., convincing city officials to ban smoking in public venues). Similarly, marketing, i.e., the development, distribution and promotion of products and services, can be used to foster beneficial change among both people (e.g., by making nicotine replacement therapy more accessible and affordable) and places (e.g., by providing city officials with model anti-tobacco legislation that can be adapted for use in their jurisdiction).


Public health agencies that use their communication and marketing resources effectively to support people in making healthful decisions and to foster health-promoting environments have considerable opportunity to advance the public's health, even within the constraints of their current resource base.