In 1997, only 8% of Americans recognized diabetes as a serious disease. In response, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). On behalf of NIH, Hager Sharp contributed by leading a series of social marketing and integrated communications initiatives designed to raise awareness and improve treatment and prevention.
Turning the tide on a chronic disease, however, requires more than communicating with people who have the condition or are at risk of it. So, we developed a strategic plan and created a wide range of resources—website, consumer-facing materials, and health education toolkits—to help NDEP support health care professionals, caregivers, and families. With these resources, which featured tailored messages and materials in 16 languages, as well as adaptations for seven vulnerable population groups, NDEP reached an extremely diverse set of audiences to facilitate healthy behavior change.
For nearly 20 years, we helped NDEP reach millions of people—consumers and health care providers—to improve the treatment and outcomes for people with diabetes, promote early diagnosis, and prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Over the life of our contracts with NDEP, we provided strategic planning in numerous ways—from long-range plans to targeted initiatives. For example, in 2013, we helped NDEP create a five-year plan to build on the program’s existing objectives, while identifying where NDEP’s strengths could best continue improving diabetes outcomes. One key strategy was for NDEP to increase its partnership engagement with a specific focus on organizations representing health care professionals—including community health workers—and community-based organizations. We assisted NDEP with a range of other activities including:
We created resources that targeted specific at-risk populations (such as older adults, adolescents, African Americans, and Hispanics) and translated materials into 16 languages. We developed a process for writing and testing plain language to ensure our materials had optimal impact among audiences with low health literacy and we tested the materials with members of intended audiences to ensure appropriateness, relevance, and ease of use. We also developed comprehensive dissemination plans for each resource and tracked all activities related to development and distribution in a materials database. We organized much of the dissemination through partners, and we hosted regular webinars to keep partners apprised of trends and news in diabetes treatment and prevention.
With more than 200 core NDEP partners to engage on a regular basis, and more than 900 partners in total, stakeholder engagement was a major focus of our work. We worked with partnering organizations to develop and test educational materials for consumers and professionals, host quarterly webinars for professional development, and disseminate materials among consumer and professional audiences through a variety of channels and venues.
Partners also played a strong role in promoting NDEP resources. In advance of special promotions, such as National Diabetes Month and Diabetes Alert Day, we coordinated logistics and prepared materials for, participated in, and evaluated quarterly promotions calls with partners to brief them on upcoming activities and encourage participation. To help recognize partners for their support of NDEP, we also drafted partner spotlights for web posting each month. Long-term partners in these efforts included the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
In addition to these ongoing engagement activities, we developed and managed special projects with partnering organizations. For example, we managed a partnership between NDEP and the AADE to develop, test, and evaluate Diabetes HealthSense, a website that provides access to a wide variety of diabetes self-management resources.
Each year, we developed quarterly promotion plans to guide outreach activities. Additionally, for specific observances such as National Diabetes Month, our team developed media and promotional outreach strategies, messages, and themes. We also provided ongoing outreach support and planned and executed media “blitzes” consisting of activities such as radio media tours with NDEP leadership, feature articles, blogger outreach, social media outreach, and partner outreach.
To encourage partners to promote NDEP resources, we also developed numerous media toolkits and resources specifically for their use in disseminating NDEP materials and messages.
Working closely with NDEP staff, and with significant input from NDEP’s work groups, Hager Sharp developed scores of materials, tools, and resources to assist people in preventing and managing diabetes, and to support partners in raising awareness about preventing and managing the disease. Materials included fact sheets, web content, treatment guides, toolkits, and webinar presentations. The latest materials included a series of videos to assist people in preventing and managing diabetes through behavior change.
Through partner organizations, we tested materials with members of intended audiences to ensure appropriateness and ease of use. In addition, we created product development guidelines and set schedules to ensure that all materials were reviewed regularly and fully supported NDEP-approved diabetes control and prevention strategies. We also developed comprehensive dissemination plans for each resource and tracked all activities related to development and distribution in a materials database.
Each year, we developed a conference plan that supported NDEP in up to 10 conferences. Our conference and exhibit support activities included:
We managed NDEP’s presence at conferences for the following organizations:
We supported ongoing website maintenance in the form of weekly and other periodic updates to highlight current initiatives and promotions, including adding new content and educational materials; updating partner web pages, spotlights, and volunteer profiles; and ensuring Section 508 compliance. Additionally, the team designed wireframes and web pages to support new features and initiatives and implemented usability testing to ensure relevance and ease of use among diverse audiences.
Formative Research: We conducted dozens of in-person and online focus groups to test concepts and materials. For example, we recruited health professionals to participate in online focus group discussions to provide feedback on a health care provider’s toolkit, collecting feedback through 90-minute web-assisted discussions. We used the feedback to determine whether the toolkit was a useful resource for health professionals and to guide NDEP in finalizing content and organization of the online resource.
Evaluation: Each year, Hager Sharp developed a comprehensive evaluation program to measure the objectives outlined in the strategic plan. The program included process and outcome measures, which we tracked and relayed in quarterly and annual reports. We also developed and implemented a number of innovative outcome evaluation tasks throughout the contract period, including sub-studies of clinical trials and other studies incorporating experimental design.