A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

How should we talk about oral health?

How should we talk about oral health?

January 28, 2011

Ask Kelsey Williams, Boston University School of Public Health alumna.

Kesley Williams generously donated her time and expertise to help Health Care For All and the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce put together a fantastic video that illustrates why oral health IS health.

Read on to learn the social science theories behind the video, according to Kelsey:

Framing Theory: Framing Theory says that you can take an issue and frame it in a way that is most useful to your cause. In the case of oral health, we want people to understand that dental care is not just cosmetic, and not all dental problems can be prevented with proper brushing and flossing. However, oral health is a key part of overall health and well-being. Going to the dentist for a check-up is as integral as your annual physical, and receiving care when a dental problem arises is akin to going to your primary care doctor when you are ill. This new frame is the basis for the slogan of the campaign, as well as the video.

Marketing Theory: Marketing theory says that every communication should have a message and an execution; a good communication will have the two working in tandem to successfully convey the message. In the case of the oral health video, the message is: “My Health is Oral Health; Please Restore MassHealth Dental Benefits.” For execution, there are personal stories of the impact of oral health on people’s lives, visuals of healthy people being active and happy, panoramic, pride-inducing shots of Boston, and pensive music, all working towards conveying the message and (hopefully) motivating legislators to reinstate benefits.

Aspects of Storytelling: Techniques employed by authors and scriptwriters are extremely helpful when applied in the context of health communications. Historically, communications about health are based on statistics and facts. These are not compelling! To get people to listen and respond to your cause, use the four main elements of a good story:

1. Characters with a story or challenge

2. Precipitating event

3. Conflict

4. Resolution

In the video, we have three characters with a story and a challenge – needing dental care but not being able to pay for it. They cannot afford services because of a precipitating event – the cuts to restorative MassHealth adult dental benefits. The conflict is that each individual needs to choose between living in pain at a great risk of infection, or having his or her problem tooth pulled (as teeth extractions are covered.) The resolution? Having Massachusetts Legislators reinstate the funding for these services!

Check out the video for yourself to see these theories employed to help Restore MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits!