This is (slightly modified) from a blog post by Marco Arment, writing about the entertainment industry:
Relying solely on yelling about what’s right isn’t a pragmatic approach to take. It’s unrealistic and naïve to expect everyone to do the “right” thing when the alternative is easier, faster and cheaper for so many of them. The pragmatic approach is to address the demand.
I came across this quote via Jonathan Rothwell’s blog post, and, in truth, I’m fairly ambivalent about the entertainment industry.
Yet the sentiment of the quote (perhaps better expressed in the full article) – the importance of marrying the “right” with the “pragmatic” – is applicable in so many areas of life, not least public health. And yet, it strikes me as an often forgotten, or perhaps often ignored, tenet.
It’s easy to say “lose weight”, “drink less”, or “stop smoking”, and we all know that such messages are right. But all have a multitude of maintaining habitual behaviours and causal factors, and maintaining the status quo is all-to-often “easier, faster and cheaper”. The secret of great public health interventions is to turn the “right” choice into the “pragmatic” choice – and, in truth, we’re not always great at doing that.
Marrying “right” with “pragmatic” can be hard, and requires seeing a problem from multiple points of view. It’s easier to concentrate on the “right”, but it rarely works. We all need to get better at making out solutions pragmatic, even if it means approaching problems in unfamiliar, unusual ways.
Here endeth the lesson.