Dignity Health campaign aims to inspire acts of kindness

August 15, 2013


San Francisco-based Dignity Health hopes to encourage people worldwide to treat one another kindly, and to underscore the centrality of human kindness in health care, through a campaign the system launched in June.

The "Hello humankindness" campaign includes an $11 million, yearlong advertising push; extensive social media outreach; public relations efforts; internal communications with employees; and operational changes at facilities across Dignity Health's 18-state network.

The goal is to "facilitate and enable acts of kindness" and to create a movement in which people are inspired to help others, explained Mark Klein, Dignity Health senior vice president of corporate communications, public affairs and marketing.

The launch began with advertising in national, regional and local media, including a Sunday edition of The New York Times and other print publications, television stations and online channels. Klein explained that the campaign is national in scope because the health care debate is national, and Dignity Health wants to get the attention of national leaders. Also, Dignity Health's growth strategy includes expansion to new geographic regions, said Klein. For example, Dignity Health's 2012 acquisition of the U.S. HealthWorks occupational medicine and urgent care company moved Dignity Health into new state markets.

A full-page, curtain-raising ad in the June 16 edition of The New York Times pictures Dignity Health President and Chief Executive Lloyd Dean on a rocky coast. "We should never cut, ration, or restrict humanity," Dean says in the ad, "There's something cold and impersonal happening when we talk about health care. The words budget, cut and waste get used a lot," but the word "care" is seldom heard. He calls on legislators and health care professionals to "make kindness and humanity part of every conversation and debate and policy decision."

In a full-page ad in the July 1 New Yorker, Sr. Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, connects environmentalism and health. The Dignity Health director of ecology says in the ad that "by shining the light of human kindness on our own hospitals and care centers, we're helping to create a healthier future for our environment and the people living in it." The ad highlights Dignity Health's efforts to eliminate mercury use, to transition to products free of harmful chemicals and to use environmentally friendly power sources.

Dignity Health asks people to report acts of human kindness to its website hellohumankindness.org, and to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets to share stories of kind and heroic acts locally and globally. For example, recently the site had a vignette about an emergency room nurse in Arizona who called her daughter to bring in a tube of sunscreen for a homeless man with sunburned ears. Another story related how Japanese commuters pushed a 32-ton train car to free a woman trapped between the car and the tracks. The website included Huffington Post articles on a child piano prodigy entertaining an elderly person, a kitten that recovered from a serious illness and an abandoned dog that secured a fan base on Instagram.

One person posted, "It doesn't cost you anything to extend a little kindness." Another wrote, "Simple acts of kindness put the biggest smile on people's faces …"

The humankindness website also highlights volunteer opportunities — helping at zoos, reading to children, growing community gardens. Dignity Health plans to enable the public to send get-well messages to patients, including by providing postage-paid postcards.

Dignity Health is backing up Hello humankindness with operational changes. Dignity Health facilities are training managers to improve their listening skills. System hospitals also are asking employees not to pass a lit call light without stopping to help the patient.

Klein said Dignity Health developed Hello humankindness using focus group studies and surveys it conducted in its markets as well as nationwide studies done by other researchers. The theme emerged that people think the U.S. health care system feels impersonal. They want to be heard and treated as individuals, not as numbers. The research also showed people believe society is becoming less civilized. People want a return to kindness.

The campaign is not overtly religious, but Christina Fernandez, Dignity Health's senior vice president of mission integration and spirituality, said the system is providing a tool kit to its facilities that will enable them to tailor Hello humankindness materials to their area including by adding scriptural references.

Fernandez said sisters from Dignity Health hospitals' founding congregations provided input on the campaign. She said they like that it reflects the spirit of their congregations.

Klein said, "Our sisters had the courage to act and speak about what was important to them," and this campaign asks people to act in a courageous way.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.