“Health communication is the science and art of using communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations.” (Society for Health Communication)
The World Health Organization (WHO) named vaccine hesitancy, the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite available vaccines, one of the top 10 global health threats for 2019. The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate can be complex, but as we have heard reported for several months around the current outbreak of measles, which had been declared eliminated from the US in 2000, the perpetuation of vaccine misinformation has reached a tipping point.
A recent call to action on the issue from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “Though robust scientific research demonstrates that vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving, inaccurate and misleading content about vaccines proliferates online. As parents increasingly turn to social media to gather information and form opinions about their children’s health, the consequences of inaccurate information play out offline.”
Can you imagine if there was one invention that could help people live healthier lives, reduce healthcare costs, boost the economy, increase education outcomes, and improve the environment? Now, imagine that it’s not an invention at all, but something that has been around for, well, ever, and something you not only encounter every day but also need to live. That’s right, I’m talking about food.
Humans—and Americans in particular—have a complicated relationship with food, as exemplified by fad diets, ever-changing (and often conflicting) dietary recommendations, the widespread presence of food deserts, and of course the obesity epidemic. But if approached and consumed in thoughtful, healthy, and sustainable ways, food can be a catalyst for positive social change. Here’s how.
Last year, just before school began, Starz premiered its critically-acclaimed documentary series, America to Me. The 10-episode series profiled students, teachers, parents, and school administrators at Oak Park River Forest (OPRF) High School in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
I recently finished watching the mini-series as a way to broaden my own understanding of racial equity in education. That’s because OPRF, with one of the most diverse student bodies in Metro Chicago, also suffers from a widening achievement gap between its White and Black students.
It’s only natural that I viewed the series through the lens of a PR professional, and I couldn’t help but notice the tie-ins to the skills needed by communicators. These skills are best exemplified by OPRF’s teachers, a handful of whom do their part to narrow the achievement gap. In the process, they serve as a master-class on how to build mutually beneficial relationships that allow them to serve their students’ needs—the same way communicators should conduct themselves to provide quality client service.
Black History Month is a time for us to remember, share, and celebrate the achievements and contributions of notable Black figures. It’s also a great time for us as a Black community to remember and learn more about our own history and families to better understand ourselves and where we come from. Our bloodline and DNA don’t just tell the story of who we are, but they also provide us with information about our health. That’s why developing a family health history, a record of health information about a person and three generations of his or her relatives, is important. Not enough of us know our unique health histories and hereditary risk factors. Black History Month is the perfect time to talk about and create a family health history.
Before making the move to a communications agency, I spent 10 years in the nonprofit sector as a fundraiser. While fundraising for food banks, youth organizations, and veteran advocacy groups across the nation, I passionately pursued mission-driven work alongside a communications team. Together, we crafted messages that connected with donors and built our brand. Though “communications” wasn’t ever in my title, I learned quickly that effective communications is the foundation of every nonprofit’s success.
Effective communications allows you to raise awareness of your organization’s mission, establish credibility, engage prospective donors, and drive brand awareness, which in turn allows you to:
- Attract volunteers
- Raise funds
- Recruit qualified and competitive staff
- Expand participation in services
- Advocate around applicable issues
- Stimulate social and behavioral change
Communications is a powerful tool, but it isn’t always a priority. Throughout my time in the nonprofit sector, I often saw budgets tighten as needs continued to grow and government resources dwindled. We were asked to do even more with less, placing additional strain on our already limited resources. When that happened, marketing and communications items were the first to see cuts. But that’s a huge mistake. Given all that strong communications can do for an organization, cutting back can make a tough financial situation even worse.
Though I’m no longer at a nonprofit, my passion for mission-driven work is still alive. Now at Hager Sharp, I have the opportunity to work with a wide range of nonprofits, associations, and foundations to help them utilize their limited funds efficiently without compromising communications. Our team has decades of experience developing and executing strategic communications initiatives, and together we work with organizations to determine the role communications can play in differentiating and elevating their ideas.
This March, we’re making our services even more accessible by hosting our first communications boot camp. Join us, along with up to five other nonprofits, for a half-day working session. Hager Sharp’s communications experts will guide you through a strategic exercise to outline your communications goals and objectives; pinpoint effective, compelling messages; and identify the strategies and tactics that will drive success, including media relations, social media, events, partnerships, paid advertising, and more.
Megan Mills, MPA
Sound interesting? Sign up today!