Pro Health Needs to Change Its Dumb Ad Campaign

Pro Health Ad Campaign
Health care giant Pro Health Care has an exceptionally stupid advertising campaign going on right now.

The ads on billboards and on its website feature a very enthusiastic looking kid holding a unicycle, which the ad implies, he just received for his birthday. The copy reads, “Surprise. Another potential injury.”



Seriously, you guys!? If Pro Health really wanted to portray genuine health dangers for children it might highlight the problems of childhood obesity, which that unicycle might help prevent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

This has serious health implications for these kids both now and as they grow into adulthood. To quote from the Center’s website:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
  •  Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer.

And what’s the solution? Again, to quote from the CDC, “The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.” (Emphasis mine)

So, what’s a big medical provider like Pro Health thinking when they proliferate an image of the very activity (biking) that could help prevent prevalent health problems as a cause of injury instead?

Somebody over there thought they were being clever; instead they just weren’t thinking. Pro Health should dump their stupid campaign. If they just have to portray an object that has the real danger to cause injury and death in children they should try using an image of a gun. Now, there’s a public health problem.



About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

7 thoughts on “Pro Health Needs to Change Its Dumb Ad Campaign

  1. Obese kids are profitable, and a continuing revenue stream throughout their lives. Active, healthy kids do not make money for ProHealth. End of story. They will not change their ad campaign.

  2. They *were* thinking. Like mainstream media, they make money in various ways from industrial agriculture (inc. inhumane factory farms owned by big corporations), processed food manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry. They profit from children and adults acquiring chronic illnesses. Insurance companies want to make money. Easier to say “wear a bike helmet, eat all of the disease-causing processed foods, chemical/hormone/antibiotic-filled animal flesh and dairy you want.”

  3. Yes, I do agree with the first comment. Is there a way that the Bike Federation can stop this type of stuff from happening? People need to be encouraged to be outside and doing positive activities. And to display people and then saying “if you ride a bike or something similar you will be in the emergency room soon is the wrong message”. Bike riding for me “is a way to enjoy nature”. One other thing I do
    not have my cell phone on so that “I can really enjoy the sounds of nature”. Wearing a helmet is also
    something that I do agree should be done.

  4. ProHealth Care Foundation was a donor to Waukesha Bicycle Alliance’s very first bike to work week, and consistently supports healthy initiatives in the Waukesha area. They sponsor all sorts of initiatives for lower-income families in the Waukesha area to access medical care and encourage healthy living–and are much more proactive than some of their main competitors in the southeastern Wisconsin market.

    In general, I would say that the medical community “gets it” about obesity and chronic illnesses. That said–do their marketing departments get it? Maybe not. I agree that the ad campaign is off the mark, but I definitely do not agree with the sentiment that the medical community doesn’t care about obesity because they are “making money” off of chronic illnesses. I noticed Meriter (one of Madison’s main hospitals) is one of the main donors for Madison’s bike to work week. That’s great. Let’s embrace the healthcare world, not drive them away with baseless accusations like the first two comments above.

    • Sonia,

      Thanks for the positive notes about ProHealth Care Foundation. Despite that, I have traditionally found it very tough to get healthcare folks more involved in promoting active transportation. That said, lately I have been noticing more bicycles in healthcare billboards and print ads.

      I know some are involved, but most are not. Marketing messages are important, but as you mention, the folks making those decisions on a particular commercial might not “get it.” There are a number of those sort of commercials out there that I can think of. I guess it is one thing if a car company does that, it is another when it is a healthcare company. This commercial’s attempt at humor could have been done better without discouraging being active, and I don’t think it hurts to point that out publicly. Again, it is good to hear the ProHealth has supported cycling in the past.

  5. I have a couple thoughts:

    1) the Milwaukee healthcare organizations have probably not come around yet. The traditional model for encouraging regular physical activity in the healthcare field has been the “give people pedometers” approach, not the “lobby city government for complete streets” approach. But I think that’s changing. For example, Kaiser Permanente is now a huge sponsor of Safe Routes to School type activities (especially Fire Up Your Feet).

    2) Outside of Milwaukee and Dane County, I think much of the new push for walking and biking is coming out of the healthcare agencies and public health departments.

    3) It’s also possible that the hard sell to ask a *local* healthcare agency to fund a *statewide* organization like the Bike Fed.

  6. I’m going to be the contrarian here: I think this is actually a pretty good ad FOR A PARTICULAR SERVICE. You have a kid with a birthday unicycle and a tagline; “Another potential injury”. Kid. Unicycle. It IS a potential injury. I watched my daughter and her friends grow up with bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, sailboards… There were injuries – some of them serious enough to require medical help. Seems to me all that ProHealth is saying in this ad is “If your kid augers in we can see her quick. No waiting 2 hours in an ED.” If ProHealth has some larger anti-cycling stance I didn’t see anything about it in this ad. Or are you all trying to say that no one gets injured bicycling?

    I have to agree with Sonia, that for health care systems the focus has been on trying to change individual behaviors, rather than venture into the systemic reasons people don’t walk more, bicycle more, etc. I don’t see any evidence that a cynical effort to pad their own bottom lines with chronically ill people needing services. In fact once a large business institution, even a healthcare institution, involves itself in issues like infrastructure, it becomes a minefield, with the potential to piss off customers, staff, even local and regional governments. Are these institutions risk-averse? Sure. But I don’t think this is, on its face, an institutional policy that’s anti-cycling or anti-walking.

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