Naming matters: The importance of specific names and labels in health messaging campaigns

Thursday, July 20, 2023: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Grand Hall East - C/D (Hyatt Regency Downtown Atlanta)
Names can provide heuristics to help people make sense of the unfamiliar, or help people see themselves in an intervention and feel like it's meant for them. A name can also “right size” the stakes — helping to raise the importance of an event such as a dangerous weather phenomena (heat waves) or lowering the perceived cognitive barrier around calling a hotline for mental health support. In contrast, a name can also increase reactance and lead people to assume they are not the targeted audience if they don’t see themselves in the messaging or if it runs counter to their lived experiences. What we call things in health messaging can affect how people interpret information as either inviting or condescending and prescriptive. In this panel, we will look at the importance of naming in three diverse areas of public health messaging: infant/toddler nutrition, adult mental health, and safety during extreme heat events (heat waves). We will discuss findings from audience research that lead to different applications to change health behavior. The individual cases involve a variety of research methodologies, such as semi-structured interviews and surveys, as well as diverse audiences including low-income mothers of young infants, adults with mental health or substance experiences, and individuals from a region in Spain that experiences frequent extreme heat events. This panel will highlight the importance of audience research in identifying mental frameworks to create naming conventions and health messaging that meets people where they are and changes behavior.

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