Puzzles are really popular with many target groups. Free crossword books with a health message may engage people in a way a leaflet can't


Crosswords for health
This web site stresses concentrating on the particular interests of specific target groups. However, the local research I looked at , using Experian data, showed that crosswords and puzzles are generally popular. They rated highly in all of the groups listed that make up over 50% of the population in the part of Northeast England I studied. Around 30-40% of people said that they were interested in this pastime. About a quarter of people said that they were interested in competitions. Local market research may show the same for target groups that you are interested in.

Special software now makes creating crosswords and puzzles much easier. A range of companies produce it. To start off producing a crossword, try writing out about 200 health questions. These are the messages you want to get across. Then write out the list of words that make up the answers. Input the words into the software. It then creates the crossword square. (It may still need to put in an odd word with nothing to do with the topic to make it work.)

Alternatively, there are specialist compilers who can write health crosswords for you.
One way of using crosswords would be to produce regular free puzzle books on a health theme. This format is probably more useful for drawing people in and passing on information than motivating change. As people may only take in a little knowledge from the crossword itself, the books themselves could also include short supporting articles on health. (Given the statistics on literacy in the UK these would need to be easy to read.)

Including competitions in the book would appeal to many readers. It would also be a way of measuring what response the book gets. Commercial magazine publishers often do this. A thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of using crosswords to give out information would also be vital.

Health adverts could also be included. Alternatively the books could be funded through appropriate paid for advertisements. They could also be a way of attracting sponsors who would have a guaranteed way of reaching a particular audience. You may also want to sell the format on to other health agencies in different parts of the country. Therefore try not to include information in them that might date. If income is an important factor in producing a book, make sure that you include full-cost recovery in your prices. In other words add in overheads, such as heating and light.

The books could be distributed to places that research shows the target audience go to. Alternatively the Experian company can provide addresses so that you can send books directly to the target groups home. They might also be popular in NHS waiting rooms. 

Another approach would be to give them out in settings such as youth groups or residential homes. Workers could then use them to stimulate conversation and debate.

(For references click here and links click here.)

To download extra information on using crosswords click here
http://www.sexanddrugsandrockandhealth.com/Crossword supplement 3.pdf

To download my whole 180 page report on using popular culture to tackle health  inequalities click here

To download the PDF software to be able to download this file click here