Do you know your audience?

I had a conversation with one of the staff psychologists about the government assistance available to people who live with HIV in Argentina. Everyone who has HIV in Argentina receives free treatment either directly through the government or through their insurer. We talked about how useless free treatment is if the patients are worried about more pressing concerns such as where they will get their next meal from. Offering free treatment assumes that patients have the ability to take care all of the factors that will prepare them to receive the treatment. When I speak to patients about why they have problems sticking to their regimen, the complaints range from difficulty understanding how to navigate bureaucracy to not having a normal daily schedule to help them remember to take their medicine.

Many programs assume capacity that does not exist. A recent example in the United States can be found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The federal government handed out $2000 debit cards to affected families to help them get basic goods such as clothing and food. However, many of the people who received the debit cards took them and used the money for gambling. The program failed because there was an assumption that people knew about common financial literacy; gambling is not a good form of investment.

A key principle of advertising is to know your audience. I think that this principle extends beyond the advertising and marketing sector. Policymakers need to know the populations they serve to ensure adequate policies are enacted. As an individual in the workplace, you need to understand your audience as well and speak to them in a way they can understand you. Remember, it doesn’t matter how important your message is if no one hears it.


2 comments so far

  1. jenniferalaine on

    Paul Farmer struggled with the same thing in Haiti when forming Partners in Health. Check out the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” if you haven’t already.

  2. Vanessa on

    Thanks for the suggestion! I haven’t read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” yet but I am reading “Pathologies of Power” now. It definitely has changed the way that I look at the work that I am doing and the way that public health interventions work around the world.

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