Communities: Boone and Newton counties, AR, Omaha, NE, Milledgeville, GA, New Orleans, LA, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, Rochester, NY
Social media comprises a set of tools that foster interaction, discussion, and community, allowing people to build relationships and share information using technology. The use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media tools to disseminate health messages and spur advocacy efforts has grown exponentially in the last several years (CDC, 2011). Social media tools can be an effective way to raise awareness and foster engagement for childhood obesity prevention efforts. The CDC’s “Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit” says the keys to effective social media outreach include identifying target audiences, determining objectives, choosing appropriate outlets, deciding on the amount of resources (time and effort) to be invested, and measuring impact to inform future efforts (CDC, 2011). Community engagement and advocacy are fundamental components to successful HKHC initiatives. As such, a number of HKHC partnerships are harnessing the power of conversation to spread awareness and drive action towards policy change.
Boone and Newton Counties, AK: Youth Connecting to Nature via Social Media
The HKHC Boone and Newton Counties partnership, Healthy Kids, Healthy Ozarks (HKHO), manages a Facebook page where they regularly post news about their community gardening and farmers markets as well as general education pieces. Additionally, in the fall of 2012, HKHO will partner with the Jasper School District to join forces with the district-wide social network site to promote the new HIKE Club (Healthy Initiative for Kids Enjoyment). HIKE is a collaborative that brings together a diverse group of organizations and individuals including local schools, community organizations, National Forest Service and the National Park Service with the propose of connecting young people to the natural environment for health and education purposes. With the wealth of hiking and biking trails in the Ozark National Forest and Buffalo National River, outdoor recreation is Boone and Newton County’s most valuable resource, yet it is underutilized among local residents. This new social networking initiative allows students from distant campuses (within the district) to interact in unique ways involving hiking and how it relates to school subjects like math, science, history and English. Following school-sponsored hikes, students will share their experiences on the HIKE Facebook page. Such work is especially important in rural communities where social media can connect students from different schools and across a wider geographic area.
Omaha, NE: Partnering with an Advertising Firm on Social Media Efforts
The Omaha HKHC partnership hired a local advertising firm, Omaha Advertising, to devise and implement a communications strategy that includes social media. They have focused on generating media attention about the HKHC Omaha partnership and spreading the news to different audiences through their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube pages and the dynamic Livewell Omaha website. The partnership saves videos and radio broadcasts that normally expire on news station websites by archiving them on the Livewell Omaha Youtube channel. This allows them to manage their own media and shape their brand image, which has helped build a network of 300 partner organizations connected through social media. The success of Omaha’s reach using social media is evident with their “likes,” “hits,” and “followers” leading to a greater awareness of the initiative.
Milledgeville, GA & Rochester, NY: Spreading Awareness through Social Media to Spur Community Action
The lead initiative of the Milledgeville HKHC partnership, Live Healthy Baldwin, utilizes Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to raise awareness about obesity-related issues. The initiative tailors messages based on different audiences. Live Healthy Baldwin views Facebook as a local communication tool and makes it available to a smaller invite only group. The Facebook group allows Live Healthy Baldwin to invite interested individuals who are interested in being engaged in the initiative. Two student interns are responsible for posting legislative alerts, information about the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating, and publicizing local events. Currently at 163 Facebook members and growing, the partnership’s goal is to have 250 members by the end of 2012. Evidence of success includes the number of people who have asked to join the group and the number of non-administrators who are posting quality information on the page on a regular basis. To increase interactivity, the Live Healthy Baldwin page administrators request feedback on posts using instant polling and asks people to share ideas or recipes. Unlike their Facebook page, the partnership views Twitter as a tool to communicate within and outside of their community. One of the partnership’s social media goals is to establish themselves as obesity prevention experts by routinely tweeting relevant health information. By tailoring messages to different audiences, Live Healthy Baldwin can spread awareness about the healthy eating, active living movement more effectively.
The HKHC Rochester partnership, Healthi Kids, launched their social media strategy campaign in late 2010 with the goal of encouraging the community to take action on issues such as school food recess policies, sugar sweetened beverage taxes, and complete streets legislation. Their followers on Healthi Kids’ Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and website, include students, parents, principals, teachers, faith leaders, local public officials, media contacts, and community based organizations. Promotion strategies include populating the Healthi Kids Facebook page with local and national stories, commenting on photos, tagging fans and community members in posts and photos, and including links to their Facebook and Twitter pages, in staff email signatures, and on their bimonthly newsletter, Healthi Headlines. The HKHC Rochester partnership has been “tagged” and “retweeted” by reputable health and physical activity advocates, including KaBOOM!, Playful City USA, the Strong National Museum of Play, Playworks, DASH NY (an initiative of the New York Academy of Medicine), and Ricki Lake’s AllStrides campaign. Lessons learned include having a dedicated staff coordinate social media efforts and engaging a broad range of stakeholders.
New Orleans, LA: Social Media on a Budget
The New Orleans HKHC partnership, KidsWalk Coalition, launched their social media campaign simultaneously with their Stepping to School report; a citywide assessment of the walking environment around New Orleans public elementary and middle schools. Realizing that electronic reports are more efficiently and cheaper to distribute than print copies, the coalition decided to develop web-based communications tools to broadcast its mission, raise its profile, and distribute the report, along with other news and events. This effort involved creating a website/blog through the low-cost WordPress service and developing a monthly newsletter through the low-cost Mailchimp service. The Kidswalk Coalition has integrated their social media tools such that blog posts immediately create Facebook posts and tweets with links. This strategy saves time and allows the KidsWalk Coalition to reach many different constituents based on their preferred social media platform.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA: Using Social Media to Engage Youth and Local Residents in Policy Change
The HKHC Rancho Cucamonga partnership, Healthy RC, led by the City of Rancho Cucamonga, began youth and resident leadership initiatives that elevated their existing social media work (Healthy Rancho Cucamonga Website) to engage them in policy change efforts. Since then, these groups have been highlighted numerous times on their City’s website and featured on the City’s public access channel, “Healthy RC Living”. Local efforts have highlighted the work that these groups have done with nutrition standards policies, park assessments, and ongoing community capacity efforts. The City of Rancho Cucamonga is also integrating technology and social media into their general civic engagement strategies. The city’s GIS department has launched a mobile application (currently available on the iTunes store) that, in addition to providing general City information, allows residents to take pictures of infrastructure needs and submit those directly to the City’s response services. Youth and local residents have already begun to use this application to help the City address these issues and have even provided feedback on how best to tailor some of the application’s features.
HKHC Partnerships’ Work in Progress
The HKHC Buffalo partnership primarily uses social media (blog and Facebook) to raise awareness and share information with youth. By engaging teens, the partnership has learned that youth in Buffalo prefer not to use Facebook related to the HKHC work and prefer texting. The partnership is using this information to adjust their outreach strategy.
Social media shifts the power balance of traditional marketing tools by engaging participants in a dialogue rather than in a one-sided conversation. This makes it an ideal community engagement tool to influence childhood obesity prevention policies. HKHC partnerships in Milledgeville, GA and Rochester, NY are raising awareness through social media outlets to affect policy change. Healthy RC, in California, is focusing their social media efforts on engaging youth to lead policy change. HKHC communities have strategically crafted their efforts based on staff time and resources. Partnerships, like HKHC Omaha, have been able to leverage additional funding to hire a professional advertising firm, while partnerships like the KidsWalk Coalition in New Orleans have found creative ways to maximize their reach through social media. As the use of social media continues to grow, so does the potential to expand the reach of childhood obesity prevention efforts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office of the Associate Director for Communication. The Health Communicators Social Toolkit. (2011). Retrieved May 1, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/socialmedia/Tools/guidelines/pdf/SocialMediaToolkit_B…
Social Media Resources
• Packard Foundation
• Environmental Defense Fund
• Gates Foundation
• RWJF becoming “Web 2.0 Philanthropy”
• Intel (their guidelines have inspired a lot of others)
• Beth Kanter: Social Media Policies Best Practices
• CDC Social Media Toolkit