The connection between public health and the built environment isn’t always obvious. However, when unseen toxic chemical, biological and physical agents exist in and around the built environments we live and work in, they can make us sick.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 20 percent of the United States and 20 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s population is exposed to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). People contract SBS after exposure to chemical, biological or physical agents believed to be found in buildings.
Improving the quality of our work and living spaces is paramount to public health, and building products marketers have an opportunity to play a key leadership role in these efforts, which can be challenging to achieve. Urban Land Institute’s “Ten Principles for Building Health Places” research explains that this requires work within the community and a shared vision to cultivate and develop healthy spaces for the public.
Here are five strategies based on some of ULI’s principles that will help you champion health to benefit communities:
Get the word out about the benefits. Ensure that everyone who’s a stakeholder understands the full value of healthy spaces, including personal, economic and social. As the champion, ask questions such as who benefits and what improvements will be realized with these changes. Find opportunities to connect with the community about the value proposition.
Partner with your community for collective action. Use a grassroots approach to work with community leaders who can help lead the charge, identify areas of need and who can help organize. Seek them out and identify them to serve as your public health ambassadors for healthy spaces. Invite them to connect with you through social media, via email marketing or for community events.
Be inclusive. Don’t overlook segments of the community. Health is a value that’s important to everyone so broaden the appeal of your message. Make sure that it targets a mix of backgrounds, socioeconomic levels and ages.
Prop up your brand as a proponent of health. Since everyone cares about their own personal health as well as that of their friends and families, make sure that your communication plan ties your brand to health and healthy spaces. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a hashtag that says #PuttingHealthFirst on your social media messaging or sponsoring a health-related contest or sweepstakes.
Consider out-of-the-ordinary partnerships. Find ways to collaborate with partners that will share your value of health, but who perhaps may not have been a traditional partner in the past. Connecting with the medical community in some way may now make more sense. Exhibiting at a medical-related trade show or participating in a community event that involves members of a neighborhood, health care workers and public officials are possible opportunities.
Building product marketers who make public health a part of how they do business can become a powerful force in achieving positive health outcomes for the public. In turn, the public will gratefully reward them, not just with public praise but also with their loyalty for (healthier) years to come.
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