Social Marketing and Youth Violence Prevention

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On a daily basis, Flint youth are almost for certain exposed to two things: the latest status updates from classmates on their Facebook newsfeed and news of an act of violence in their community. The city of Flint reports some of the highest rates of both juvenile arrests and student engagement in violent behaviors in the nation. While there have been significant statewide and community efforts to address youth violence in Flint, there has been minimal attention given to the realm of social marketing and its potential impact as an intervention strategy in the area.

Social marketing is the application of traditional marketing principles towards the promotion of health behavior change. Key features of social marketing include: (1) Management of behavior by creating incentives or consequences that invite voluntary change (2) The identification of barriers to behavior change and the emphasis on benefits that are relevant to the audience. (3) Communication of costs and benefits in relation to target population in effort to reshape the environment to make recommended behavior change more advantageous.

A social marketing campaign that is tailored to the youth audience in Flint, and carefully targets specific aspects of violent behavior, such as bullying or gun violence, could have a profound impact on adolescents, who are particularly engaged by media outlets as compared with other age groups. There have been few outcome evaluations conducted specifically on social marketing and youth violence prevention, but substantial evidence has supported the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns in the promotion of positive health behaviors among teens, including tobacco cession, physical activity, and condom use. As “Facebook”, “Youtube”, and “Twitter” are becoming increasingly integrated in the daily routines of today’s youth, this type of intervention is worth further exploration by public health workers in Genessee County.