Laugh before you cough

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Chances are you’ve heard at least one joke in your life about the uncomfortable act of getting a prostate checkup. If you watch certain cable channels, you’ve probably heard a lot more than one. Yet try to find a good public service announcement promoting the preventive screening and your search engine comes up all sixth-grade science diagrams and white coats.

Despite the controversy over whether or not the screening is even valuable (which, based on our belief in pointing out the blue elephant in the corner, we’d recommend owning upfront in our own communications), we’ve been seeing some great exceptions to the “how we talk about prostate cancer” rule lately.

For example, the folks at the Prostate Cancer Foundation are taking advantage of the snickering that’s already inherent in this awkward situation. They’re using humor to break through the noise and encourage men to get checked.

One approach – “The Prostrate Czech” video – has gone viral and perfectly captures the reluctance that so many men have around the screening, based on how it’s been “sold” to them over the years.

There are other examples of healthcare communications around prostate cancer that use humor to appeal to different segments of the target population – some with a higher gross-out factor than others.

Humor also introduces other common-yet-uncomfortable-to-think-about screenings, like this promotional piece for suicide prevention for men that starts out as good as any good comedy skit.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – there’s nothing funny about a scary health issue like cancer or clinical depression.

Organizations like the Prostate Cancer Foundation do a great job of providing solid information for people at every stage, from prevention to treatment and beyond.

But when it comes to that initial effort of breaking through the noise, those of us in health promotion could take a hint from the bro in the corner.

Fact is, sometimes we need to have a good laugh at something before we can take it seriously.

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