Tag: Health Communication

Drunk driving: completely preventable crime (1)!

An 18-year-old man was charged with driving while intoxicated in a fatal crash. On October 12th, a man was killed by an underage drink and drugged driving crash in High Point. It was a head-on crash happened around 2 a.m.. Although both Turner and Yeomans were transported to Mose Cone Hospital immediately after the collision, Yeomans died while receiving treatment and Turner had serious, but not life-threatening injuries. As a result, 18-year-old Turner was charged with not only driving while intoxicated (DWI) but also driving after consuming under the age of 21. Why this vehicle crash deserves our attention? Because this accident did not simply destroy two people, instead, it destroyed two families.

Almost 30 people every day died of motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in the United States in accordance with the article published by CDC. “Over 10,000 people every year are killed and another 290,000 are injured as a result of drunk driving,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehpey-Church, who lost her 18-year-old son in an underage drink and drugged driving crash. Do you really think these terrifying numbers are non of your business? Do you really believe that you or your family members will never meet any irresponsible drivers who drink while driving?

Hopefully, your answers for these two questions above are no.

Drunk driving is completely preventable crime!

Photo credit: http://brandongaille.com/35-best-anti-drinking-and-driving-slogans/

Dewey Mooring on Three Simple Rules for Marketing Success

Earlier this week, the writers of Upstream had the pleasure of hearing Dewey Mooring, the Vice President of Jennings: Healthcare Marketing talk about three simple rules for marketing success.

Mooring, a UNC alumni, graduated with a B.A. in Radio, TV and Motion pictures in 1993. He started his career in communications at WCHL, a local radio station in Chapel Hill, by helping with the broadcast of Tar Heel basketball and football games.

Fifteen years ago, he decided to join the advertising world, and now as the Vice President of Jennings, he leads the account team, authors strategic plans, creative briefs, and oversees research for various clients including Vidant Health, Cooper University Health Care, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, among others.

As aspiring health communicators, we all benefited from Mooring’s valuable advice about successful marketing. He offered these three simple rules to follow:

1.) Know

Get to know your audience. If you don’t understand who you’re talking to, you won’t be successful in talking to them. Mooring suggests creating a persona for your audience in order to best market to them. Give that person a name, an age, a salary, and find out their media interests, like what they watch on TV, what magazines they read, and what brands they like.

2.) Engage

Once you get to know your audience, it becomes important to use this information to engage them. In the world of healthcare, peer-to-peer communication has become a huge trend, especially among online health information seekers. Because of this, finding ways to use social and digital media to connect brands with their target audiences can be a successful strategy. Mooring exemplifies this by talking about the company’s use of a blog for Lowell General Hospital & Floating Hospital for Children titled, Our Circle of Moms, that engages moms in the hospital’s brand by allowing them to connect and share with other moms in the community.

3.) Measure

When working with clients, it is important to not only show them what you spent their money on, but also to justify the money spent with measured results. This can be done by keeping track of visits to websites, how many people signed up for a program after information sessions, and radio and digital reach. Mooring points out that while measuring results is easier than it was before, it can still be difficult in the area of healthcare, as the majority of hospital services and treatments do not lend themselves to immediate action by consumers.

World AIDS Day: who is at-risk?

As the World AIDS Day is approaching on December 1, AIDS is more discussed openly and with compassion instead of in secrecy and shame.
Do you still believe population with high-susceptibility are sexual workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men? Yes or No!
Yes. They do have high risk of being infected by HIV.
No. There is a large number of teenagers being infected by HIV. According to CDC, youth aged from 13 to 24 accounted for a substantial number (estimated 26%) of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2010.
However, although previous research studied the knowledge, attitudes, practice, and influencing factors concerning AIDS among teenagers in the United States,  a group of teenagers is missing.
Chinese international students, a vulnerable group, need to be taken care!

With high-susceptibility of being infected by HIV, Chinese international students did not be studied before. Based on the report published by National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention (China), there was an increasing number of students who were infected by HIV. Those students accounted for 1.64% of the total HIV carriers and people living with HIV/AIDS in 2011, increased from 0.96% in 2006. Of those students, almost half of them (49%) were aging from 20 to 24. Therefore, teenagers, especially college students, are the most vulnerable group concerning the chance of getting AIDS (He et al., 2008; Liu, 2006; Wang, 2002). Unfortunately, most of the previous research in China studied the knowledge, attitudes, and practice (KAP) concerning AIDS among college students in mainland China, instead of studying Chinese international students in the U.S.. Similarly, there is no study mainly focus on this group of students in the U.S.. Therefore, study on Chinese international students is in demand.

Additionally, the number of Chinese students studying in the United States is increasing according to the data published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Nearly 100,000 Chinese students came to U.S. universities between 2009 and 2012, which contributed to a quarter of all foreign students in the U.S..

With an increasing number and high-susceptibility of being infected by HIV, Chinese students in the United States deserve research to learn their KAP, and develop effective preventions.


Photo credit: https://top5ofanything.com/list/ecdb3c65/Countries-with-The-Highest-HIV-AIDS-Prevalence-Rates


He et al.. (2008). Analysis to the effect of health education for college students’ AIDS-related knowledge and attitude. Chinese Journal of Health Education 24 (2): 102-104

(贺莉萍, et al. “健康教育对大学生艾滋病相关知识态度的影响.” 中国健康教育 24.2 (2008): 102-104.)

Liu, L.R.. (2006). Summary of health education of AIDS prevention in Beijing. Chinese Journal of Health Education 22 (2): 146-148

(刘利容. “北京地区预防艾滋病健康教育研究综述.” 中国健康教育 22.2 (2006): 146-148.)

Wang, Q.L.. (2002). 全球艾滋病流行进展. 中国艾滋病性病, 1, 000.

A Cell [organ] Therapy raises moral and ethical problem?

Recently, a baby girl with cancer was saved by a cell therapy untested in humans according to an article published in the New York Times. The girl, Layla Richards, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that “starts from the early version of white blood cells in the bone marrow” invading the blood and quickly spread to other parts of body. Although it is hard to say whether this girl was cured due to the short period of time (only a few months) in remission, she was rescued by a cell therapy, said Waseem Qasim, one of the doctors who treated the girl at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. “It is a remarkable outcome” because several conventional therapies did not work, such as chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and a new type of biotech drug, Dr. Qasim said.

However, there is an intense debate on whether the federal government should fund research on transplanting partly human organs or cells from animals to patients to treat illness.

There are two branches of cell therapy [organ transplantation]. One is legitimate and established, the other one is dangerous and raises ethical and moral questions. The first one is transplanting human cells [organs] from a donor to a patient; while the second one is injecting animal cells [organs] or partly human cells [organs] to treat illness.

In late September, the National Institutes of Health declared a moratorium on funding research which studies the combining cells or tissues (chimeras) or genetic information (hybrids) from partly human and partly nonhuman. NIH officials stated that the ethical and moral questions raised by this kind of research needed to be evaluated. Françoise Baylis, a bioethicist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, said that this early human chimera “would introduce inexorable moral confusion in our existing relationships with nonhuman animals, and in our future relationships with part-human hybrids and chimeras.” Moreover, Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University, said “this will somehow give the animal a human consciousness, human mental capabilities.”

However, there are very effective strategies that would alleviate the concerns discussed above, said Sean Wu, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. Additionally, some prominent scientists worry this moratorium may hinder the development of this promising field of research, as a result, many patients may die from the shortage of this technology. “We don’t have enough organs for transplantation,” and “every 30 seconds of every day that passes there is a person that dies that could be cured by using tissues or organs for transplantation,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor of gene expression at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.


Photo credit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/06/business/a-novel-cell-therapy-untested-in-humans-saves-baby-with-cancer.html?ref=health&_r=0


Travel safe: health prep before you jet

Are you planning any extravagant trips this holiday season? Maybe exploring the ancient city of Petra, or hiking through the steep ridges of Patagonia, or testing your bargaining skills in shops found in the Colaba Causeway in Mumbai. Wherever you are set to go, make sure you and your traveling buddies and hosts get the most out of the experience by finding out what you need to do to prepare your body for foreign territories and tasty treats. Some countries will provide a detailed list of all the vaccinations and recommended medicines to carry with you before you enter or acquire your visa, but always double check sources you trust.

The CDC’s Travelers’ Health page is a great up-to-date resource for all your health travel advice. The World Health Organization also has some helpful tips. Also, make sure you are aware of any recent outbreaks or health concerns your destination is dealing with around the time of your travel. Try to identify key resources (your country’s Embassy, trusted health clinics, and pharmacies) in your immediate area, in case of an emergency.

And as always – be a courteous traveler. Recognize that you are no longer in your own country and things may be very different. Be respectful of the people and local customs and you will surly have a great time! The Lonely Planet is a fun source of information about all things historical and cultural – just one example of many.

Happy traveling! 🙂

Non-vaccinators: Implications for Health Communication Intervention

If you wanted to deliver an effective and persuasive message to an audience, what are some of the things you may consider well before broadcasting your message? Certainly you would want to be sure you understood the history of the topic, the pros, the cons, and alternative solutions/courses of action. But before even crafting your message, it would be wise to understand your audience. An audience is rarely just one cohesive body of like-minded individuals who hold the same attitudes, beliefs, and values regarding a particular issue. An audience often has multiple segments, each with a unique profile. This idea of segmentation was first introduced into the marketing field as a way to increase return on investment by tailoring a product to the unique needs and desires of subgroups of people (for a review of audience segmentation and how it relates to health campaigns see Slater, 1996).

Segmentation has been a useful tool for communicating issues related to health. Although segmenting audiences is as much a science as it is an art form, tailoring communication interventions with audience segments in mind increases the likelihood of a campaigns success.

Researchers from Rutgers University and Aachen University and the University of Erfurt, both in Germany, teamed up to offer a segmentation strategy on an international issue: delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination. In their article, the researchers review reasons why people do not vaccinate, and offer an addition to the World Health Organization- SAGE vaccine hesitancy working group’s “Three C Model” (complacency, lack in confidence, and convenience issues).

  1. Complacency “perceived risks of vaccine-preventable diseases are low and vaccination is not deemed a necessary preventive action” (SAGE vaccine hesitancy working group, 2013)
  2. Convenience: “The quality of the service (real and/or perceived) and the degree to which vaccination services are delivered at a time and place and in a way that is considered appealing, affordable, convenient and comfortable, also affects the decision to vaccinate. Vaccination convenience and complacency are also determined by the priority that an individual places on vaccination.” (SAGE vaccine hesitancy working group, 2013)
  3. Confidence: “Trust in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines and in the system that delivers them, including the reliability and competence of the health services and health professionals and having trust in the motivations of the policy‐makers who decide which vaccines are needed and when they are needed. Vaccination confidence exists on a continuum, ranging from zero‐to‐100% confidence. Vaccination confidence is only one of a number of factors that affect an individual’s decision to accept a vaccine.” (SAGE vaccine hesitancy working group, 2013)
  4. Calculation: This C, added by Betsch and colleagues, refers to those who do not have strong preexisting attitudes regarding vaccination, thus seek out information about the pros and cons to ultimately make a decision that leads to a decision. For example, calculators may choose not to vaccinate if harm from infection is perceived to be lower than harm from vaccination, or if they have conflicting information (See Betsch et al., 2015 for more information).

The researchers then developed a table highlighting ways to effectively intervene by audience segment (the Four C’s). You can view the table here. The table is nicely organized into different types of intervention (informational interventions (i.e. health communication campaigns); structural interventions; and interventions to support self-control and implementation).

As the authors’ state in their article, more research is needed to determine which types of interventions are most effective by group, which is an effort that is strongly supported by this audience segmentation work.

Research Spotlight: Tom Linden, M.D.


Dr. Tom Linden, of the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), spoke with the Upstream writing team recently to share advice and provide guidance for writers who are new to the blog medium.

Linden, who has been awarded the title of Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism, teaches courses in medical and science journalism for undergraduate and graduate students at UNC and has been director of the Medical and Science Journalism Master’s Program for 18 years.

With an extensive background in both psychiatric medicine and broadcast journalism, Linden offers aspiring health communicators a unique perspective of translating complex academic health information into practical knowledge for the general public to understand and apply in their daily lives.

To do this, Linden encourages health communication bloggers to incorporate basic journalism skills into their writing. He says the most important thing for a writer—using any medium—is to be mindful of their audience. Having an idea of the community that’s reading the material provides a framework for writers to know what kind of stories their readers find interesting.

Linden suggests five tips for creating interesting blog posts. First, he encourages writers to find fascination value with their topic. In other words, “Is it inherently interesting?” If the answer is no, it is unlikely to be with other readers as well. Next, he suggests selecting a topic that has a large audience. Writers can do this by asking, “Is my topic popular among many people?” Increasing audience size increases readership and possible sharing using other social media sites.

Third, he encourages writers to be aware of the importance factor when considering a blog topic. “Something can still be important without being fascinating or drawing a large audience, and that’s okay,” says Linden.

Another factor to consider when using journal articles as a starting point is the reliability of results. For example, finding a published article that includes a small sample size might be worth blogging about because the validity of the article is in question. He encourages writers to be on the lookout for limitations within articles because readers will find the contrast interesting. Finally, he says for writers to ensure their posts are timely. If it’s being talked about in the main media, chances are it would make a newsworthy blog post.

Linden believes adopting these techniques will improve the quality of posts for reaching a wider audience, particularly within the health community.

A simple message can make all the difference.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

This is an effort for which everyone can contribute, and it doesn’t require a monetary donation or time spent volunteering. Just take a moment and think about your friends, your loved ones, even your acquaintances. Can you think of a time when any of these people did something that made your life easier or said something that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Did you return the favor or let them know their support mattered to you? You see, this post is not about preventing suicide directly. It’s about nurturing and building those social connections that keep us moving forward.

In this age of hectic schedules, endless email, and constant travel, it’s hard enough to even find the time to sleep. BUT, giving someone that same sense of belonging, or increased sense of self-worth that they once gave to you only takes a second. It’s as simple as a text message, a phone call, or a cup of coffee. By strengthening your social support network, not only are you helping others, you are helping yourself. When our network is strong, we are strong.

A simple message, smile, or hug can make all the difference in someone’s day. If you notice someone struggling, find the time to listen to them. Help them find the solution to their problem. Each individual makes choices based on a complex web of experience, emotions, and expectations. Accept that some things are out of your control and you cannot hold yourself accountable.

 But never underestimate the power of a phone call.

Please be responsible when discussing this issue on social media. Click here to access the NIH guidebook for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.


For prevention resources, click the links below:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://www.afsp.org/

Active Minds: http://www.activeminds.org/our-programming/awareness-campaigns/suicide-prevention-month

National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml#part_149729

Research Spotlight: Dr. Allison Lazard

The Upstream writers recently had the pleasure of meeting one of the newest faculty additions to UNC School of Media and Journalism, Dr. Allison Lazard. Joining UNC from the University of Texas Austin, Dr. Lazard primarily focuses her research on the role of visual communication in health communication. For instance, she studies how interactive and visual design affect health and wellness campaigns. Her background in design and professional industry experience gives her a fantastic perspective and allows her to ask questions like, what design features are most influential for first impressions? What makes “good” design that leads to favorable evaluations? Are the responses visceral (instinctive) or reflective (cognitive)?

Dr. Lazard shared some of her research with us, describing work on nutritional websites. Because about 80% of Americans look for information online, she conducted a content analysis for homepage nutrition information regarding visual complexity, display complexity, prototypicality, craftsmanship, and more. With her knowledge in both communication theory and visual design, she was able to analyze these factors and make suggestions to help make nutrition and health information websites both more effective and visually appealing.

More recently, she has done work with the power of photo manipulation for food advertising. Do foods appear “healthier” based on the visual depiction? Do foods appear healthier if the picture is brighter? Cleaner?  These findings could contribute to the way food is represented not only in commercial food advertising, but in health promotion efforts as well.

Welcome to UNC, Dr. Lazard!


Cold, allergies, or flu?

It’s about that time of year again when everyone is getting “sick.” But is it really “sick” or is it allergies? I often find myself struggling to distinguish between cold and allergy symptoms, so I did a bit of research that helped me answer my own questions (just allergies) that I’d like to pass on (just in case others are asking the same questions). The NIH and Mayo Clinic have some great resources about colds vs. allergies vs. flu.

If you have allergies, you WILL have:

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose, eyes
  • runny/stuffy nose
  • watery eyes

But allergies will NOT cause:

  • general aches/pains
  • extreme exhaustion
  • headache (not usually)
  • chest discomfort (unless you have asthma)

What are allergies, anyway?

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, an allergic reaction starts in the immune system. Your immune system basically identifies an otherwise harmless allergen as a threatening invader. To protect you, the immune system “overreacts” by forcing your body to produce histamines (now you know why Benadryl is called an “anti-histamine”) and other chemicals to make you sneeze and snot the threatening invaders out of your body.

But, as always, if you aren’t sure, you should still talk to your doctor. Wouldn’t hurt to get that flu shot, while you’re at it 😉