Positioning broccoli

This is a link to the article about re-positioning broccoli. There are numerous other links found by searching “broccoli, New York Times”.


This article revolves around the story of a branding communications agency taking on “the broccoli account.” The relevance of course is that the principals involved all believe that traditional claims to health benefits will not make a difference; some other heuristic must come into play !

Communicating about social determinants of health, inequities: The Krieger Challenge

Being interested in Health Promotion and Health Communication, I am very interested in where they meet (in fact, in 1996 Irv Rootman and I published a paper in which we defined Health Communication as where health promotion and health communication meet !)

In the following post, I visit a  call to action by Nancy Krieger,  follow that up with  Canadian and US “snapshots,” and close with two learning resources about communications.

Krieger’s article  included some interesting conclusions, as well as an array of visual representations of determinants of health.

In it, she calls for an “iconoclastic iconography, one that clearly delineates the social facts of skewed distributions of power and resources and depicts the social processes that…”  Which is not often the case!

What do you think of her recommendation?

For appropriate background, please read the article, abstracts, or other works by her:

J Epidemiology and Community Health. 2008 Dec;62(12):1098-104. doi: 10.1136/jech.2008.079061.
Ladders, pyramids and champagne: the iconography of health inequities.
Krieger N.

For a real world USA discussion of semantics around the “redistribution” word, check out an article in the New York Times by John Harwood:


George Lakoff who developed a lot of the thinking around framing was a high-powered consultant to the Democratic Party……


For a Canadian take on how we communicate about social determinants of health, read Beyond ‘Run, Knit and Relax’: Can Health Promotion in Canada Advance the Social Determinants of Health Agenda?

Ted Schrecker



One learning resource is a Physics Today article by Somerville and Hassol, found at the following link:



A second learning resource is a series of lectures hosted by Spitfire Strategies:


The Wealth Paradox

In response to a query from me as to what NCCDH was doing to promote this series, my colleague Pemma Muzumdar created the following; she also encouraged me, and I encourage you to join their Discussions online about related topics. Here is what she created:

It’s great to see this kind of coverage by the Globe and Mail. The overching series is actually one on leadership in Canada called Our Time to Lead. There have been a number of features including Genome, Immigration, Education, and now… Our time to lead: The Wealth paradox

I particularly appreciate that the series presents concrete policy options, and explains them with related articles. Readers are then asked to vote on a policy option that they think provides a solution to the growing “income gap” problem. See 1b below.

1) Polls

  1. Very quick poll “Are you concerned about this topic”
  1. More “meaty” poll: Vote for one of six policy options  to solve the “income gap” (A – F below)

A) Restore fairness in our tax system

B) Emulate Germany’s approach to skills training

C) Create a new social contract

D) Enhance Early Childhood Education

E) Do nothing, there’s no major problem

F) Boost support for the working poor

2)  Graphics, videos etc

This page contains videos, infographics, and related links on various topics

3) Articles

  1. How income inequality hurts every Canadian’s chance of building a better life
  1. Crusader Robert Reich turns a lens on U.S. income inequality
  1. What growing income inequality is costing Canada’s future generations
  1. It’s time to restore fairness in Canada’s tax system
  1. Benefits and pension for all: Why Canada needs a new social contract
  1. This refundable tax credit could reduce income inequality
  1. Canada needs to improve access to trades training
  1. How globalization has left the 1 per cent even further ahead
  1. Wealth begets health: Why universal medical care only goes so far (note: this is the one that really made the rounds on social media – probably b/c it’s by Andre Picard and he has a wide following)


Pemma Muzumdar

Knowledge Broker | Courtière de connaissances


(902) 867-2110 | pmuzumd@stfx.ca

Follow me on Twitter @Ask_Pemma

Follow the NCCDH on Twitter @NCCDH_CCNDS

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The Kentucky Conference

Many years ago, I got a crash course in Health Comm from attending this relatively small-scale conference. Speakers and fellow students, practitioners are pretty approachable, or were at that point.

Consider it, if you have the interest and resources.


p.s. you will want to think carefully about the Kentucky Hot Brown

The Ministry of Nudges

A few days ago, the lead story in the New York Times Sunday Business Section was about behavioral economics. The article rightly gave a lot of credit to popularizing these ideas to “Nudge” by Thaler and Sunnstein. Read at your pleasure, including the oft-quoted example from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

I have used behavioral economics in my teaching and consulting for many years, and found the article interesting on a number of counts. First, it is interesting in and of itself to read about the history of the Behavioral Insights Team and some of their successes.

Second, it is interesting to see how ideas from existing disciplines are brought under new umbrellas/tents/paradigms. In this case, much is made of the nudge that invokes objective norms, which is pretty familiar stuff to social scientists. (Those of you who subscribe to the Georgetown social marketing listserv will have noted a post discussing the relationship of behavioral economics to social marketing).

Third, I also find the questions about whether nudging is ethical, or appropriate for government as opposed to private enterprise, very interesting reading and fuel for discussion.


Brain Pickings

Earlier today, reading the Wikipedia article about Barton Fink, one of the Coen brothers opined that putting in a rich mix of allusions into their films which film critics will explore at great length is akin to teasing animals at the zoo.

In a like manner, after spending  only a few minutes on the Brain Pickings blog, I sense both great excitement and anticipation, with a dollop of dread. It  is so vast, I will barely hold on after even a quick surface view. However it works out for me, I commend the site to you, if you are interested in practically anything and everything.


Norms, incentives, ego, …..

Take some traditional behavior changes theories, add emerging behavioural economics, shake into 9 ingredients, arrange them in a row with a catchy acronym, and what do you get? MINDSPACE  !!!

MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy was published by the United Kingdom’s Institute for Government and the Cabinet Office on 2 March 2010.

European Centre on Disease Control

I am using this post to point to one of a number of resources being developed by a consortium of universities comprised of the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland Galway, as the lead coordinating centre, and the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Scotland, and the University of Navarra Clinic, Pamplona, Spain.
The systematic literature review related to Immunization Schedule Promotional Communications  was produced by Georgina Cairns, Laura MacDonald, Kathryn Angus,
Laura Walker, Theodora Cairns-Haylor and Timothy Bowdler, Institute for Social Marketing, University
of Stirling and the Open University.
The project was overseen by Ülla-Karin Nurm, Andrea Würz, Piotr Wysocki, Niklas Danielsson and Irina
Dinca, ECDC Communication Knowledge Group in the Public Health Capacity and Communication Unit.

This is one of a number of toolkits produced by the Knowledge and Resource Centre on Health Communications, of the ECDC located in Stockholm.

It was my pleasure to serve on the Advisory Committee for a project that included creation of this paper.

Where magic, mathematics, and neuroscience meet !

I admit that some eyes glaze over when I start talking about this, and I also confess that I do not have the dexterity or the patience to become a sleight of hand artist.

Having said that, I was fascinated enough to acquire Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone . I found this a real fun and interesting read, as it combines an interesting personal narrative (with themes of failure and redemption), a lot of history of magic, some math, and a lot of psychology. The description of how Three Card Monte gangs operate to select, engage, fool and then cool out their victims is gripping. The explanation of optical illusions, in-attentional blindness and other cognitive processes is highly relevant to health promotion and communications, and while respectful to the academic sources, is told in a more interesting manner than most journal articles.

There is also controversy! Right or wrong, Stone does reveal secrets. Among other critics, sleight of hand artist, actor and author Ricky Jay wrote a blistering review in the Wall Street Journal.

After reading the review, I did end up reading “Magical Mathematics” by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham. This book is also wonderful, full of tricks, history, and all sorts of non-magical applications (cryptology,  cable paths, etc), but the math is pretty demanding.

I also noted that Alex Stone does include respectful description of the work of Diaconis, who is one of a number of mathematician magicians (as was the late Dr. Nathan Mendelsohn who taught  “Basic Concepts in Mathematics” and ended our class with a show of stunning tricks which I vividly remember from over 40 years ago).

As for secrecy, Stone claims that most tricks have been revealed on the Internet among other sources. One proof test: finding out how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty is one Google click away. Take my word (sadly) for it. He’s right.

CDC’s MessageWorks now live

CDC’s MessageWorks is one of three tools proposed for HealthCommWorks, and as its name implies, it focuses on important message characteristics. In a series of seven easy steps, you define your situation, craft a message, and get a numerical score for that message, as well as recommendations to improve the message.  You can do this multiple times, saving them to an account as you wish.

You can see this for yourselves at the following site: https://www.healthcommworks.org/

Two things I really like are:

– the fact you can create multiple versions of the “same” basic message, and see how it scores AND/OR see how effective a given message might be with different audiences !

– to do the above, you need a sophisticated algorithm in the background, and in this instance, it is based on a meta-analysis by Keller and Lehmann (2008) – Dr. Keller also appears in a series of instructional videos within MessageWorks.