Social Marketing and the Mother-Child Connection

Social Marketing and the Mother-Child Connection:  Interdisciplinary Innovation to Address Key Origins of Obesity in the Lifecourse

Childbearing contributes significantly to the development of obesity in women and families. Over 70% of first-time mothers gain an unhealthy amount of weight with pregnancy. Unhealthy weight gain in pregnancy is a risk factor for later obesity in women and their children. Pregnancy may represent a vital leverage point where a focused intervention to mitigate excess maternal weight gain could reduce obesity among both women and their children. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy is likely mediated by a broad array of factors including the food environment, food security, nutrition knowledge and skills, neighborhood safety, and social determinants of health such as income and education. Additionally, the social network and a community’s normative beliefs may be particularly important motivators of weight gain in pregnancy. Two pervasive and entrenched social norms that likely have powerful effects on pregnancy weight gain include the beliefs that pregnancy is a time 1) to eat for two, and 2) to limit physical activity.

Given the physiologic, behavioral and social determinants of the excess pregnancy weight gain and the intergenerational obesity epidemic, an effective intervention will likely require a transdisciplinary approach. Social marketing offers a promising – but largely unrecognized and underdeveloped – strategy to combat excess pregnancy weight gain. Social marketing is the process of applying advertising concepts (including audience benefit, branding, and product promotion) to the advancement of social good. Social marketing campaigns incorporate central concepts from social and cognitive psychology, behavioral theory, behavioral economics, decision-making science, and marketing science to achieve targeted behavioral change. A well-designed, effective, scalable social marketing intervention could thoroughly transform public perceptions of appropriate pregnancy weight gain and have a profound impact on the obesity epidemic in women and children.

We propose the development of a university-based, interdisciplinary consortium with capacity to design, evaluate and disseminate a social marketing intervention. We plan to host a community-wide Symposium in early 2014 to gather interested individuals across the University of Michigan and in the broader Ann Arbor/Detroit community.  The team-building process will produce the following: 1) Infrastructure for evidence-based development and rigorous evaluation of a social marketing intervention for prevention of excess pregnancy-associated weight gain, and 2) a proposal for Global Challenges Phase 1 funding that details the key features of an interdisciplinary social marketing intervention, including aims, hypotheses, social marketing activities and process for evaluation of effect.

Project Team:

Michelle Moniz, MD (Obstetrics & Gynecology; Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars®)
Timothy Johnson, MD (Chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology)
Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP (Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Ford School of Public Policy)
Tammy Chang, MD, MPH, MS (Family Medicine)
Catherine Kim, MD, MPH (Internal Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Kenneth Resnicow, PhD (School of Public Health – Health Behavior and Health Education Department; Center for Health Communications Research)
Rajeev Batra, PhD (Ross School of Business, Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication)
Lorraine Buis, MSI, PhD (Family Medicine, School of Information)
Edith Kieffer, MPH, PhD (School of Social Work)
Kathryn Fessler, MD, PhD (The Corner Health Center, Ypsilanti MI)
Zachary Rowe, BA (Executive Director, Friends of Parkside, Detroit)