For those who weren’t able to follow the conversation at @WePublicHealth last week, summarised below are some of the useful ideas and resources shared by Ross Green and Eliza Metcalfe, who work in Knowledge Translation at the Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne and tweet as @_HealthyComms.
They made the case that health communications is vital in public health – as a key support for research and practice – and that it is a transdisciplinary endeavour involving practitioners, researchers, designers, IT boffins, wordsmiths, filmmakers, project managers, and more.
It involves reading, interpreting and synthesising research, conceptualising, storytelling, visual comms, Ux – or User Experience – design (knowing audience helps this immensely), public speaking, writing (many genres), editing, group facilitation (meeting and interacting with audience), social media savvy, curiosity, project management and…
The perfect health communicator also needs to have chutzpah, they said, as they’ll be mixing with people with lots of formal qualifications. Or, put another way, the ability to interact with and respectfully challenge those with lots of formal qualifications.
Yet there is often little spending/room in health service budgets for good health communications because it is not seen as “core business”. Ross Green asked: “Will this ever change?”
Ross and Eliza stressed the importance of planning and coordination – right across the health communications continuum: from research and professional practice to media.
They also spoke of the importance of moving beyond “telling”, and to engaging with and knowing audiences. Listening is “possibly the most underrated skill in the world.” We need to know our audience and our key messages/frames before we start communicating. Once known, can then think more about ‘how’ etc.
Communications channels can include: talking, print, online, social media, billboards, TV and radio, clothing and on and on!
Eliza and Ross spoke a lot about the importance of “sticky” ideas and concepts in heath communications – something that has a good chance of being remembered at crucial times.
You can defeat the Curse of Knowledge (which often defeats public health messages because we are ‘seduced by complexity’) – with sticky ideas – SUCCESS Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories). The ad industry does ‘sticky’ very well.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath is the bible of sticky ideas thinking, they said.
They said the safety sector does sticky campaign messaging better than health, and Eliza speculated: “I wonder if it’s b/c the messages can be less nuanced?”
On the limitations of stories
The quote “the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place” is especially pertinent in stories.
Stories can also be problematic for health messages. Don’t relate to a case study? Thus the messages in it don’t apply.
• Framing health messages to reach the right people the right way is essential. The Frameworks Institute – “changing the public conversation about social problems” are masters. See their resources on children’s nutrition and children’s oral health.
• Health messages can play a role in extending lives…or not’. A TEDx talk on decision making by Lisa Sparks.
• Fun one here: 10 Ways A Condom Can’t Protect You Brand new video by Centre for HIV & Sexual Health Sheffield
• See http://osocio.org/ for the best of non-profit advertising and marketing for social causes. Some fabulously sticky ideas here.
• If Your Child Could Talk: http://youtu.be/mEwdKcC9pXs New perspectives are good way to re-frame. Nice eg. here from @NAPCAN_NCPW -RG
• How children develop is not understood very well by many, but lots of great new messaging work going on in this space. How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development. Complex topic, nicely done by http://www.albertafamilywellness.org/
• One I hadn’t seen before via @tessa_r_young from @Dove‘s Real Beauty campaign, Talk to your kids about beauty, before the beauty industry does…
• Clear and approachable animation on HPV vax.
• Breaking ‘guessing machines’ to support public health – Smoking Kid.
• Some great health campaigns include this famous one, 23 1/2 hours… but it’s longer and allows space for evidence and nuance.
The TAC campaigns in Vic are famously memorable, but the Kiwis are doing amazing things. Seen this one?
• A bit off topic, but this discussion of the challenges of communicating risk to the lay public is v. interesting.
• You may like this TEDx talk, “Honouring the stories of illness”.
• Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index. Re-framing how we think about climate change, happiness and wellbeing.
• Joe Sabia: The technology of storytelling
• The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has listed health communication principles, and @ECDC_EU have great info about comms activities for communicable diseases, including this guide on MMR vaccinationPrinciples of Health Communication.
• The process used by @CEH_Aus incredibly robust and respectful; tailored resources to each community very well. They produce wonderful culturally appropriate, tailored resources, including these about problem gambling.
• Good Practice Guidelines for effective communication … (see Pages 79-80)
• Making Sense of Medicine. By Dr Glenn Colquhoun. If you have a spare hour, watch keynote address (story?!) too.
• Some more here on Power of Storytelling, from 2012 Int Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare.
• Nice review of visual storytelling here.
• How do we tell stories about organisations and innovation? Interesting interview here with storyteller Steve Denning.
• This new elearning resource for kids’ mental health.
• These breastfeeding visual resources are a great example of relatable ways to tell stories, particularly to people from CALD backgrounds.
• This post from A Sheep No More is a great example of data visualisation to tell stories. Not health ones though except tangentially.
• Sending the right message: ICT access and use for communicating messages of health and wellbeing to CALD communities
From the academic literature
• Health Communication Message Review Criteria from Centre for Health Promotion at University Toronto
• Lit review on health information-seeking behaviour on the web: health consumer and health prof perspective (2011)
• Some textbooks that might be of interest – Health Communication: From Theory to Practice and Health Communication in the 21st Century and Health Communication Message Design and Essentials of Public Health Communication.
• You can follow the Cochrane Consumers and Communication Review Group on Twitter: @cochraneccrg
And this week…
Meanwhile, in the chair at @WePublicHealth this week is Dr Lesley Russell (@LRussellWolpe), a Senior Advisor at the Sax Institute and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University.
She plans to tweet about:
- Primary care / primary healthcare and the work that APHCRI does
- The 45 and Up Study that the Sax Institute manages
- Obamacare and the National Prevention Strategy
- Indigenous health
- Mental health
- Addressing health disparities.