Stamping out disease: health education and promotion by miniature messengers
This study explores the role of the ubiquitous postage stamp as a messenger of health promotion and education. It examines the way that postal material has been modified to act as a medium for health education, with images and texts appropriate to the specific health problems. The methodology used included a search for all postage stamps listed in established catalogues that fitted the described criterion. Selection for further study was drawn from those stamps that covered the topics of infection, immunisation, tobacco cessation, growth and nutrition.
It was clearly recognised that by simply presenting information on a stamp, would not necessarily bring about the desired behavioural change. Thus, the currently accepted health promotion models were examined to find an appropriate explanation for/ and a rationale to explain the use of postage stamp in health promotion and education. The strategy called “media advocacy” was the nearest best fit for the bulk of postage stamps carrying health information. This finding could explain why stamps have been perceived, over many years, as being a useful and successful element in health promotion and education by their frequent and continued use over a period of some fifty years.
Postage stamps are frequently used worldwide and have a clear role in carrying health information and thus play a small, but important and unique, role in the field of health promotion.