Reaching The Masses


When we consider how few people in society at large understand the chiropractic message, let alone accept it, we have to give some serious thought to our approach to communicating chiropractic.  Even the best chiropractic communicators, and those building the largest practices in the shortest period of time, admit that educating the public takes tremendous effort and there is usually more failure than there is success.  I am not about to offer a simple solution to the problem in this medium because frankly, there are no simple solutions.  But if we can at least grasp the complexity of the problem, we will make some progress in finding the solution(s).  The complexity of the problem deals with two, not necessarily totally unrelated, factors.  The first problem is the diversity of the population that we address as chiropractors.  Most of us are rarely made aware of the enormity of that problem.  On those occasions when we encounter someone who speaks a foreign language, we are made painfully aware of our helplessness in communicating the chiropractic principle, at least to some people.  We may accept that person as a patient (or not), continually offering care for a short or longer time (rarely for a life time care) and we go merrily on our way.  While we lament the situation, at the same time we acknowledge that we cannot be fluent in twenty different languages.

          Sadly, we miss the bigger picture that we are losing thousands more English-speaking patients because we really do not speak their language.  However, we keep on using the same lay lectures, using the same literature, using the same audio-visual tools and getting the same meager results in number of lives changed.  Let’s look at some of the diversity among our patients in addition to language.

          1.  Age.  Social scientists acknowledge the difference between the generations.  Everyone is familiar with terms like “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X.”  Best sellers like Age Wave have made us familiar with the different thinking and attitudes of different generations.  We need to either tailor our presentation to the different age groups or find a way of making chiropractic relevant enough to each one so that it will transcend age barriers.  Those who have studied various age groups tell us that older people are more willing to accept the chiropractor’s recommendations on the strength of his authority as the doctor, but at the same time are less open to new ideas like regular maintenance care.  They will come three times a week for a month or two but will not come weekly for the rest of their lives, especially when they are feeling better.  They do not go to a doctor when they do not hurt.  Young people, on the other hand, are more open to regular maintenance care but I have learned not to try to convince them of the need based on authority because they do not accept authority.  You had better have reasonable, logical explanations as to why they should follow your instructions.  They want proof.

          2.  Intellectual.  While the average person is becoming more educated than a generation or two ago, there are still wide variations in the intellectual levels of the patients in any given office.  There are more high school and college graduates than 50 years ago but there is also a greater disparity of intellectual acumen between the high-school graduate and the college graduate of today than those of a half a century ago.  We must be aware of this disparity and adjust our presentation of chiropractic to it.

          3.  Neurolinqustic factors.  As if we did not have enough problems already, behavior scientists are now telling us that different people learn best through different senses.  Some are visual learners, some are more auditory and others are kinesthetic, that is, they need action to stimulate their understanding.  So if you stand up on Tuesday night to give your most articulate verbal presentation (otherwise known as a lay lecture), you are only going to reach a certain percentage of the attendees.

          4.  Ethnic, racial and social economic factors.  Like it or not, these factors are real.  We can pretend they do not exist or worse, we can prejudice ourselves toward wherever our interest lie.  Either of these approaches is inconsistent with our chiropractic philosophy and with our responsibility as human beings.  We need to reach all strata of society with an equally clear message. 

          The problem of communicating chiropractic to the public as I said, however, is two fold.  Yes, society is diverse but the second factor deals with us.  We cannot expect to reach the masses with as diverse a message as we currently have.  Some chiropractors say chiropractic is the location, analysis and correction of vertebral subluxation while others say it is drugless healing and others still say other things.  The result is that people are totally confused as to what chiropractic is.  As a profession, even within the so-called straight community, we must come up with an agreement as to our mission.

          Both of these factors (and probably others) impinge upon our ability to effectively get the chiropractic message out to the world.  We are not going to solve all of these problems over night, but that is all the more reason to start working on them now!

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Tom 09/13/2013, 11:39 pm:

    Reaching The Masses

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