Utilizing Communications, Social Media, and Peer Group Initiatives




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Dec 14, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Utilizing Communications, Social Media, and Peer Group Initiatives

Salzburg Global Fellows consider new methods of communication and ways in which to reach wider audiences to help support children's health Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Our voices matter. The use of communications, social media, and peer group initiatives can help amplify our messages and enact change. During Healthy Children, Healthy Weight, participants considered how these practices could best support child health and well-being and help establish a shared value for all children.

Sometimes, language can be complex and difficult to understand. Organizations have to consider how to put across concepts - particularly those affecting children’s health and well-being - in a manner which can be appreciated by both children and adults.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, the hit American educational children’s television series. Since 1969, the show has educated millions of children across the planet through live action, comedy, animation, and the use of muppets. Grandparents, parents, and children, in some cases, have all shared the experience. However, there’s a lot more to the organization than what’s on television.

In the United States, Sesame Street in Communities is focusing on Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds; ABC’s and 123’s; and difficult times and tough talks. It’s working with partners in eight states, sharing free tools, and collaborating with local community efforts. Sesame Workshop is also working with military families and children with autism.

The Workshop focuses on synthesizing, visualizing, and strategizing. This strategy involves creative co-modeling and scaffolding across all platforms. Any program it has must have three messages.

When approaching obesity, the Workshop looked at the circle of care around children - those who influence a child’s behavior. Staff recognized framing the conversation around “obesity” was not positive. Instead, it used the much-loved Cookie Monster to demonstrate a concept called “sometime and anytime foods.”

Participants were recommended to communicate in a synthesized way and consider how they could make their tagline visible across multiple platforms.

From a different speaker, participants heard when devising cross-sector approaches that improve the well-being of young people, they had to consider who their audience was and the best way to put their message out there.

The speaker discussed how he and his organization faired better once they began targeting groups instead of individuals. They implemented co-design projects that used youth culture as a segmentation tool to reach and engage young people who were ambivalent to mainstream health messages.

One unsuccessful co-designed approach, however, involved creating an app to provide relevant information.  It became apparent that the app wasn’t being used by the target audience, as this audience didn’t have enough storage space on their phones for it. Instead, this audience prioritized other apps. In some cases, it might be better to use existing channels of communication than creating new ones, participants learned.

As the conversation came to a close, participants reflected on a case study where children in kindergarten were encouraged to be more active. The developers of the program worked closely with kindergarten teachers and parents to put this message across.

This approach was an example of community intervention. Previously, attempts had been made to tackle obesity through therapy, but this proved to be unsuccessful.

This newly-devised program was able to reach the majority of five- to six-year-olds in the region with modules on topics such as eating behavior and physical activity. Topics would be introduced into the curriculum at kindergarten for six months.

The program used a wide range of channels to put their messages across, including traditional routes such as written materials, emails, and newsletters. Other avenues, however, were also explored, such as a website which contained a forum for parents to access and exchange information. By establishing a presence on Facebook, people were also encouraged to interact and engage with the content through competitions.

The program Healthy Children, Healthy Weight is part of Salzburg Global's multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation. This year’s program is being held in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.