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Coverage of public health insurance improved substantially between 2002 and 2011. Seguro Popular enrollees reached 52.6 million in April of 2012. [Photo Credit: 401(k) 2012]

Coverage of public health insurance improved substantially between 2002 and 2011. Seguro Popular enrollees reached 52.6 million in April of 2012. [Photo Credit: 401(k) 2012]

A Mexican Health Care Tour de Force: Seguro Popular

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As the world watches Americans debate over whether to scrap President Obama’s health care law– and its promise of guaranteed health coverage (or not) – Mexico has moved in a singular direction: to ensure health care as a right of citizenship.

Just ten years ago, half of all Mexicans had no health insurance at all. Then, in 2003, Congress approved reforms to health legislation, establishing the System of Social Protection in Health (SSPH). In 2004, Seguro Popular was born. The reasoning was simple: Every Mexican, regardless of their socio-economic status, was entitled to the financial protection that shields them from facing the terrible choice between impoverishment and chronic or catastrophic illnesses, and thus the possibility of death.

In spite of continuous periods of economic downturns and crisis, as well as skepticism that any change will actually help, Mexico has reached a milestone. According to a report in the Lancet Medical Journal, 52.6 million previously uninsured Mexicans have been enrolled in public medical insurance programs as of April this year. With many fans and cynics, there is no denying that Seguro Popular is an incredible feat as a universal healthcare achievement.

What was done right here from a communications perspective?

To bring the masses on board, Mexico used the power of storytelling and public engagement. Instead of focusing on party politics, Solomon Chertoriviski, Secretary of Health, focused on the number of people that never had health insurance before – the real people with chronic diseases that live every day as a result of Seguro Popular – and what could be done for them. The messages were introduced slowly and smoothly to the public, and through multiple forms of media. For instance, Chertoriviski was featured constantly in newspapers and television program interviews but he also established quite a prominent presence on Twitter and built trust with the public through personal connections.

From this, companies and organizations can learn that with a compelling story and an emphasis on public engagement, minds – and behavior – can be altered to improve health.

Candace Metoyer is healthcare intern with Edelman Mexico. Before Edelman, she worked in corporate communications at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and also in the media department at the United Nations OHCHR in Geneva.

Photo Credit: 401(k) 2012

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