In a recent Croakey post, I took a minor swipe at the Australian National Preventive Health Agency for its apparent lack of digital engagement.

The Agency has since been in touch to outline a number of its social media initiatives – as described in the article towards the bottom of this post.

I responded that these are more about social marketing aimed at changing individual behaviours rather than about advocacy aimed at changing the policies that are so important in shaping the populations’ health.

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But perhaps my hopes that ANPHA would be proactively engaged in public policy debates are unrealistic – after all this is not what the agency was set up to do. According to its website, the agency has been established “to strengthen Australia’s investment and infrastructure in preventive health”. It has received $133.2m over four years, allocated to social marketing campaigns ($102.0m), Agency functions ($17.6m), a research fund ($13.1m), and a workforce audit ($0.6m).

I have since had a productive email exchange with the CEO of ANPHA, Louise Sylvan, who says that while ANPHA is not an advocacy body, much of their work is aimed at influencing public policy.

She wrote:

“I wouldn’t see us as just about individual behaviour change – though that certainly has been the focus in our digital engagement to date. [Even social marketing media campaigns can be used for broader goals however – such a modelling a school or workplace with a good canteens policy for example, etc.]  Settings and environments are not primarily about individual behaviours, but you still need to convince individuals to act.

So when we’re holding an expert seminar on ‘healthy places’ – which we did a couple of months ago – focussing on transport systems and city design – we’re in the public policy debate on those issues by definition.

From my point of view, the essence of success here will be a marriage between people’s behaviour and the conditions in which they live; so, being sure a new suburb has good public space that’s safe to use for example goes hand in hand with getting people to use it.  The evidence shows that it’s neither one nor the other – you actually do need to pay attention to both. And we would pursue both strategies in order to get the health outcomes.

Ditto on eating habits – we’ll keep pushing the good nutrition message, and at the same time, we’re establishing the monitoring framework for assessing the exposure of children to ads for foods that are energy dense and nutrient poor.

Examining the issue of a minimum price for alcohol is also in the public policy evidence space  – we’re not an advocate here, but the expert body assessing the evidence of what impact a miminum price might have – based on predicted consumer behaviours and elasticities of course.”

Here is a link to our brief one-year activity report – it’s been action packed for our first year.”

• The upshot of all this is that I’m delighted to announce that Louise Sylvan has agreed to write a regular column to update Croakey readers on ANPHA’s work and related issues. If there are any issues in particular that you’d like addressed, please leave a note below or contact me direct.


How ANPHA is using social media

Brooke Sawyer, Communications Director at Promoting a Healthy Australia (the Australian National Preventive Health Agency), writes:

I read your recent Croakey Blog ‘Never mind the barriers to the health sector’s uptake of social media…’ and I wanted to provide to you more information on the Agency’s digital engagement through our major social marketing campaigns.

We are quite active in this space and intend to become even more active in the future.

The Agency currently oversees the delivery of two national social marketing campaigns – Measure Up – Swap It, Don’t Stop It and the National Tobacco Campaign. These campaigns use a mix of media channels, based on the media consumption patterns of target audiences (this is determined using formative, tracking and evaluation research) and social media has been used highly effectively as part of each campaign.

National Tobacco Campaign

On 31 May 2012 (World No Tobacco Day), the Agency launched the online Quit Now Calculator, the My QuitBuddy smartphone app and an e-kit to support the Butt Out at Work campaign.

The My QuitBuddy is a personalised interactive smart phone app with quit tips, daily motivational messages, and countdown to quitting reminders. The user records their goals in pictures, words or audio messages. There is a Panic button when craving providing a range of distractions including games. Users can directly call the Quitline 13 7848  or a preprogrammed buddy from the app, or post a note on the My QuitBuddy community board.  The app is available free from iTunes.  An Android version is launching soon.

See this promotional video on YouTube:


To date, over 10,000 users have downloaded the My QuitBuddy app.  Further promotion of the app will be undertaken as part of upcoming National Tobacco Campaign media activity commencing in October 2012.

The online Quit Now calculator allows the user to select a savings goal (like a motorbike, a diamond ring or a deposit on a house) and calculates the amount currently spent on smoking, and the time it would take to reach the savings goal if they were to stop smoking. It’s available on  and can be linked to other websites or intranets.

The National Tobacco Campaign website had over 1.6 million visits between the campaign launch in 2011 and 30 June 2012.

An e-kit was distributed to workplaces as part of the Butt Out at Work campaign on World No Tobacco Day 2012 to encourage their employees to quit smoking. Kit includes a widget for the The Quit Now Calculator for intranet sites and web button to link to Quit Now website.

Measure Up (Swap It, Don’t Stop It)

The Agency is engaging with target audiences using a range of social media tools under the Measure Up – Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign, including a dedicated Swap It website, smartphone app, Facebook page, interactive 12 week online planner, an activity tracker to assist consumers in locating sporting and recreation facilities in their local area, a Swap It Youtube channel, and an instagram account.

The tools are proving an effective way of engaging with the target audience.  For example:  between the campaign launch in March 2011 and 30 June 2012, the dedicated Swap It website received approximately 740,000 visits; over 54,000 people have downloaded the Swap It smartphone app; over 16,600 people follow the campaign on the Swap It Facebook page; and at 30 June 2012, 6,689 people had registered to use the 12 week online planner.

Future activities

The Agency is also overseeing the further expansion of the National Binge Drinking Strategy (NBDS) and is currently developing a social media strategy to promote this initiative.

As a whole the Agency continues to explore opportunities to better use social media to engage with our target audiences and support healthy behaviour change for Australians.


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Peter Fray
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