Special Issue "Social Marketing’s Contribution to Public Health"

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Taylor J. Willmott
Guest Editor
Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, QLD, Australia, 4111
Interests: behaviour change; behavioural science; chronic disease; obesity; prevention; health-promotion; human-centered design; social marketing
Prof. Dr. Sameer Deshpande
Guest Editor
Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, QLD, Australia, 4111
Interests: marketing for a better world; behaviour change; sustainable development goals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The breadth and complexity of problems impacting public health around the world are ever-increasing. For example, out of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), five directly relate to public health: No poverty (Goal 1); zero hunger (Goal 2); good health and well-being (Goal 3); clean water and sanitation (Goal 6); responsible consumption and production (Goal 12). While the 12 remaining SDGs are not directly related to public health, they may be indirectly related, as behaviors do not occur in isolation but instead operate within dynamic, interactive, and ever-changing systems (Domegan et al., 2016). Some public health issues, such as population management, do not appear in any SDG, but rather overlap with multiple goals. Tackling such complex, interrelated, and multifactorial public health challenges necessitates an effective behavioral change approach.

Since its inception, social marketing has been a critical component of the public health toolkit. Social marketing utilizes marketing principles and techniques, combined with other evidence-based approaches, to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good (iSMA, ESMA, and AASM, 2013). Despite an increase in uptake and use within the public health community, efforts to synthesize and showcase how social marketing has been effectively applied in public health programs, practices, and policies are lacking (notable exceptions: Cheng et al., 2011; Evans et al., 2016 ). Critiques of social marketing often focus on its capacity to achieve and sustain behavior change, particularly in the absence of supportive environments. Evidence reviews indicate that the complete application of social marketing’s fundamental principles in public health-related interventions, programs, and campaigns remains limited (Carins et al., 2014; Kubacki et al., 2015; Xia et al., 2016; Firestone et al., 2017). Therefore, the incomplete application of social marketing is not only limiting its effectiveness (Carins et al., 2014), but is also contributing to the inconsistent and fragmented evidence base that continues to fuel debates surrounding social marketing’s effectiveness. This Special Issue seeks submissions that showcase social marketing’s contribution to public health in terms of achieving measurable outcomes and impact. In particular, we are interested in:

  • Quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method case studies of how social marketing has been effectively applied in public health programs, practices, and policies;
  • Lessons learned from both successful and failed attempts at using social marketing in public health programs, practices, and policies;
  • Effectiveness of social marketing to convince mid- and upstream audiences;
  • Differences in the effectiveness of social marketing due to the nature of behavior promoted in a public health initiative;
  • Role of social marketing to deliver social impact, over and above outcomes;
  • Identification or development of evaluation frameworks for measuring the effectiveness of social marketing in public health.
Dr. Taylor J. Willmott
Prof. Dr. Sameer Deshpande
Guest Editors


  1. Carins, J. E., & Rundle-Thiele, S. R. (2014). Eating for the better: A social marketing review (2000–2012). Public Health Nutrition17(7), 1628-1639.
  2. Cheng, H., Kotler, P., & Lee, N. (Eds.). (2011). Social marketing for public health: global trends and success stories. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  3. Domegan, C., McHugh, P., Devaney, M., Duane, S., Hogan, M., Broome, B. J., ... & Piwowarczyk, J. (2016). Systems-thinking social marketing: conceptual extensions and empirical investigations. Journal of Marketing Management32(11-12), 1123-1144.
  4. Evans, W. D., & Oxford University Press. (2016). Social marketing research for global public health: Methods and technologies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  5. Firestone, R., Rowe, C. J., Modi, S. N., & Sievers, D. (2017). The effectiveness of social marketing in global health: a systematic review. Health Policy and Planning32(1), 110-124.
  6. iSMA, ESMA, and AASM. (2013). Consensus definition of social marketing. Retrieved from https://www.i-socialmarketing.org/assets/social_marketing_definition.pdf
  7. Kubacki, K., Rundle-Thiele, S., Pang, B., & Buyucek, N. (2015). Minimizing alcohol harm: A systematic social marketing review (2000–2014). Journal of Business Research68(10), 2214-2222.
  8. United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/goals
  9. Xia, Y., Deshpande, S., & Bonates, T. (2016). Effectiveness of social marketing interventions to promote physical activity among adults: a systematic review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health13(11), 1263-1274.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • behavior change
  • health promotion
  • social marketing
  • effectiveness
  • evaluation
  • outcomes
  • impact
  • downstream
  • midstream
  • upstream

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
Back to TopTop