Applying marketing theory in educational settings : a study of communication processes within school-based health promotions : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
School-based health promotions targeted at improving nutrition and increasing physical activity are seen by governments and public health experts as integral to reducing obesity among children even though such promotions often produce disappointing results. This mixed methods research involving six case schools explored the application of marketing theory in educational settings and postulates that marketing communications processes are relevant when facilitating school-based health promotions. The research intention was to determine the impact of communication processes on the implementation of school-based health promotions by investigating children‘s exposure to promotions and outcomes of promotions. Hence stakeholder perceptions and expectations of promotions were analysed. Additionally, communication enhancers and inhibitors for promotions were identified and communication approaches used by Health Promoting Schools (HPS) were compared with those used by non-HPS. Principals and teachers were interviewed to discover selection, implementation and health promotion outcomes while parents were surveyed about the influence of school-based health promotions on their children‘s eating and exercise behaviours. Children participated in focus groups to determine their perceptions of health promotions, issues and behaviours. Data were analysed using a blended models framework combining best practice principles from marketing communications theory and behavioural theory. The framework was used to explore communication processes within school-based health promotions and behavioural outcomes of those promotions. It was discovered, first, that government policy and community priorities impact upon which health messages are promoted and why. Second, it was found stakeholder roles and relationships impact upon when and where health is promoted and by whom. Third, the extent to which health concepts are integrated into school life highlighted the importance of how health is promoted. Finally, it was established that communication processes and related behaviours, which take place within different environmental contexts, are influenced by communication noise, the skills and abilities of parents and children, and environmental conditions. Future research directions include examining how health priorities of school communities can be combined into a shared vision for health promotions. Clarifying stakeholder roles and examining formation, strength and success characteristics of stakeholder relationships in health promotions is a possibility too. Exploring the HPS initiative and environmental influences on healthy behaviours also warrants further investigation.