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Kaiser Permanente: A Doctor's Word

In 2002, Kaiser Permanente's National Media Relations Director moderated a panel at NAM's annual ethnic media EXPO on how ethnic media can play a role in bringing more effective health information to California's ethnic communities. She learned that ethnic media's ability to provide valuable health information to their audiences was constrained by resources, not by will.

KP and NAM agreed to partner in building an advertorial campaign that served a dual purpose: transmitting culturally competent health information to ethnic Californians and supporting ethnic media's bottom line.

The advertorial took the shape of a monthly health advice column, "A Doctor's Word," written by ethnic physicians on health issues in their communities. The column, which pays the publications that run it a per-word rate, made its debut in June 2004 with a physician-authored column that ran in nearly 30 ethnic publications in five languages. Since then, "A Doctor's Word" has reached more than 5.5 million readers of 49 different ethnic publications with critical health information.

The campaign has consisted of the development of the "Doctor's Word" column as well as events that bring ethnic media into direct dialogue with physicians in their communities, raising the visibility of KP while improving the capacity of ethnic media to cover health topics.

To kick off the advertorial campaign, in April of 2004 NAM and KP convened 20 Kaiser doctors to identify key health issues facing ethnic communities and discuss how to reach ethnic Californians with accessible and dependable health content.

The Kaiser physicians agreed to find time in their schedules to write the columns, and NAM recruited 31 ethnic media outlets--including Chinese Daily News (circulation: 289,000), The Post Newspapers (circulation: 102,000), Sing Tao Daily LA (circulation: 65,000) and others--to run the columns at discounted per-word rates.

"Ask Your Doctor About BMI," ran in June 2004, written by Dr. Deborah Gould, Chief of Pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente's medical center in Oakland. In August, Dr. Tat Lam of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles wrote on "How Could I Have Diabetes?" And in October 2004, Dr. Arnel Reyes of Kaiser Permanente's Glendale Clinic urged readers to "Ask Your Doctor About TB."

Monthly columns, authored by over a dozen KP physicians, have continued throughout 2005 and 2006, covering cervical cancer, insomnia, depression, exercise, pregnancy, hypertension and bird flu, among other topics.

The columns have been published in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese, reaching Chinese, Filipino, Korean, South Asian, Spanish, Vietnamese, African American and other ethnic audiences comprising more than 5.5 million individuals (estimates are based on the participating media outlets' circulation figures).

In addition to the monthly columns, the campaign has featured a series of roundtable discussions to foster ongoing communication between Kaiser staff and journalists from the ethnic media. Roundtable discussions held in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento have addressed health disparities, obesity and women's health. Journalists from Afghan, Latino, Persian, Russian, Thai and South Asian media outlets, among others, have shared the wants and needs of their readers and gained insight into current health topics, including diabetes, emergency contraception and culturally appropriate care.

In 2005, the campaign also launched an ad-buy. NAM and KP worked together to bring KP's "thrive" message, featuring tips on healthy living, to ethnic audiences. Ads sponsored by KP featured the health benefits of culture-specific foods (such as mangosteen, starfruit, ginger and plantain). The ads ran in 13 languages in more than 150 print publications. In 2007, KP and NAM are working to expand the column nationally to reach communities that KP serves outside California.

Goal: Bring quality health information to diverse California audiences.

Impact: Nearly two dozen columns have been published in five languages since the campaign's launch in 2004, reaching 17 previously under-targeted communities with quality health care advice. Combined readership of the participating publications was over 1.1 million in 2004. Doctor-written columns ran in 89 publications that year, each column reaching an estimated average of 724,000 readers. By 2006, 49 ethnic media, with a total circulation of more than 5.5 million, were regularly participating in the campaign.

Goal: Promote Kaiser Permanente as a leader in health care communication.

Impact: Ads featuring the health benefits of fruits and vegetables popular in different ethnic communities brought KP's "thrive" message--and brand name--into 17 ethnic communities, including African American, Armenian, Indian, Cambodian, Iranian, Japanese, Latino, Pakistani, Portuguese, Russian and Thai. The ethnic media selected by KP and NAM for the full-rate ad campaign also ran press releases free of charge as a thank-you for KP's long-term commitment, further raising Kaiser's visibility.