From the Field: The State of Black Health 2018 and the 2018 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing & Media
We’re recapping two 2018 health conferences: the State of Black Health (SBH), hosted by NAATPN and partners, and the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media (NCHCMM), hosted by CDC and partners.
There were great nuggets of knowledge being dropped at both. We were so inspired, that we wanted to share a post summarizing key takeaways for health communication professionals.
A recurring theme across both conferences was the importance of language, not just in our communication around health issues, but also in how we think about these issues.
SBH speaker Deray McKesson of Campaign Zero put it this way: Language affects how we think. By changing how we refer to issues, we change how we think about them, and thus, how we approach them. When we participate in the thinking that certain ideas are extreme, we eliminate the opportunity to address the underlying root causes that drive them. So instead addressing these causes, we create programs to mitigate the resulting issues.
In his greetings and remarks at SBH, Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, briefly discussed stigma, both how it exists among all of us and how participating in language that is stigmatizing can be detrimental to and can undermine the prevention and treatment work that we’re doing.
“We lose when we let these words do work that we don’t want them to do.” - Deray McKesson
SBH speaker Nimaako Brown of the National Urban League said it best: “There should be no decision being made about a people without them having a seat at the table.”
For health communication professionals, this can translate into concept and message testing with our target audiences. We can’t just decide what messages are best without involving our target audiences in our planning. This also includes welcoming and empowering people to participate in our research, be it an advisory board or some other mechanism.
As SBH speaker Marjorie A. Innocent of the NAACP shared, sometimes messaging leaves things out. When talking about the effectiveness or results of an intervention, it’s easy to create messages that are too broad, and are untrue when looking by a specific gender, race, activity type, etc. This can be misleading and confusing, so we need to ensure that we are segmenting our populations and providing tailored messages that are true to each segment.
Additionally, as Deray stated at SBH: “I need to be able to explain it to my auntie.” Plain language is key. We need to ditch the jargon and speak about issues the same way our target audiences speak about them. At NCHCMM, Caitlin K. Moynihan of Fors Marsh, demonstrated this point. One of the key findings that emerged from her research of moderate and excessive drinking: Heavy drinkers don’t see themselves as being such. In other words, they don’t view their alcohol consumption as excessive. They define drinking by its effects on them, not by the number of drinks they’ve consumed. So, if someone has 5 drinks, but doesn’t black out and puke, then they may not consider their alcohol consumption as excessive. This insight is important when thinking about how we talk about drinking.
Another aspect of context that the U.S. Surgeon General touched upon at SBH, using the example of patient-provider communication, was understanding your audience. He raised a great point: What questions are physicians asking? For example, do they ask if their patients are veterans? Are we gaining the context we need for the most relevant and effective communication possible? If we don’t know who we are talking to, then we may be missing key factors that need to be considered when planning communication around health issues.
At SBH, there was a screening of the film, 90 Days, which explores a couple’s decision after about 3 months of dating and whether love is greater than HIV. This film is being used to further the conversation on HIV nationally. It touches on HIV transmission, treatment, viral load, PrEP and other prevention methods. These educational messages are crafted and packed into this short film, delivered in the dialogue and story of two wonderfully developed and acted characters. Entertainment education (aka edutainment) can be a great tool for public health communication. The literature on edutainment and its effectiveness is growing. In fact, there is a study being conducted on 90 Days by Jazmyne Simmons at the University of Miami, looking at the effects of the film on stigma and knowledge as related to HIV.
At NCHCMM, Jeffrey Jordan of Rescue Agency presented five peer crowds (segment populations) that emerge between 6-8th grade: 1) mainstream, 2) popular, 3) hip-hop, 4) country, and 5) alternative. When looking at these segments in regards to tobacco product use, there are definite differences across the groups. For instance, popular teens prefer to use Juuls, while hip-hop teens like cigarillo products. Since each peer crowd has its own cultural values and context, the campaign messages need to be tailored and packaged to reflect the differences in the culture of these peer crowds in order to be effective.
David Sanchez of Google spoke at NCHCMM about how customization and delivery of messages can be performed by machine learning. Search queries leave a digital footprint that can be analyzed for potential key intervention opportunities. An example he shared: For opioid misuse, the search query pattern is chronic pain → treatment options → opioid side effects → addiction and dependence → treatment options. Google can intervene on this pathway with targeted messaging, helping health communicators reach people where they are with the appropriate messages. This maximizes lift, by providing content at a time where someone is more likely to be receptive.
The comment was made at NCHCMM that the way consumerism has changed requires health communication professionals to be fluent in healthcare, technology, media and data. Jennifer Martin Hall of Sharecare talked about innovative strategies for incentivizing use of a mobile application. Using the Sharecare app results in a “green day” (similar to bitcoin) that can be donated to charities or used to purchase health-related products at participating retailers. Beau Mann of Sober Grid, discussed how predictive analytics help identify people at risk for relapse, allowing the Sober Grid app to prompt users to access services, such as digital cognitive behavioral therapy modules or recovery coaching.
Do you have key takeaways in your notes from these conferences that you don't see here? Add them to the comments. We'd love to see and share them!
By: Monique Thornton, MPH
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