Summer Homework: Play Video Games (for Health!)

School is out and summer is here! For many kids, this means replacing 6 hours of school with 6 hours of video games. Although a utopia for many teenage boys and even many teen girls (97% of teens age 12–17 play video games), this extra time spent in front of a screen is often viewed by public health practitioners and parents as a tragedy. However, a new type of game has emerged—games with purpose beyond entertainment or “serious” games—and, with more evidence surfacing every day about their effectiveness, we can now actually encourage our kids to play games. With increasing awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic and the growing innovation behind games designed to improve health, it may not be so difficult to get our kids active during summer break!

Health behaviors, especially physical activity, can be very difficult to change. These behaviors are learned over a lifetime and are influenced by a range of factors, including environment, family, social norms, awareness, and more. To overcome such barriers, public health practitioners are partnering with gaming experts and behavioral scientists. Together, they are developing new, innovative strategies to increase physical activity and improve health through games—and it’s working!

Zamzee, created by HopeLab to combat childhood obesity and prevent chronic disease, is one such game making significant strides in increasing children’s physical activity levels. Zamzee is a small device that kids carry with them throughout the day to measure their physical activity. The device then communicates with a gamified website that displays the child’s physical activity data, provides points based on the amount of movement, and allows kids to select rewards. HopeLab, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, completed a dozen scientific studies on Zamzee and found that the game increased physical activity by 59 percent and improved risk factors associated with chronic diseases.

Zamzee Tracker

Zamzee Tracker

Zamzee Web site

Zamzee Web site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how does it work? HopeLab explains the outcomes through their focus on both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. The extrinsic rewards, points and gift cards, help motivate kids to initiate physical activity, while the intrinsic rewards, the positive experiences children gain through physical activity and participation in Zamzee, help sustain the behavior change over time. In other words, these rewards work to increase perceived benefits and reduce perceived barriers—determinants of behavior change in the Health Belief Model, a behavior change theory widely used in the public health field. The extrinsic rewards and intrinsic rewards, such as successfully becoming more active (mastery), achieving goals (purpose), and interacting with similar users (relatedness) increase the perceived benefits of physical activity. Other intrinsic rewards, like feeling confident in one’s abilities (competence) and gaining independence (autonomy) reduce the perceived barriers to physical activity. Together, these rewards increase the likelihood that the user will engage in a preventive health behavior, physical activity in this case.

In a study on exergames conducted by Georgetown University and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, scientists found similarly encouraging results. Exergames, which have become quite popular, are a category of video games like Nintendo’s Wii EA Sports Active that require physical activity to play. The study examined health impacts in overweight and obese high school students who regularly participated in exergames. Results showed that students who engaged in cooperative exergames lost an average of 3.6 pounds over the 20-week study period versus the control group, which gained an average of 1.9 pounds.

Exergames

Exergames

Again, these results can be explained through the constructs of behavior change theory. The Theory of Planned Behavior, another behavior change model popular in public health work, identifies intention as the predecessor to action. The theory outlines three determinants of intention, including an individual’s beliefs about the actual behavior, what they perceive other people believe about the behavior (subjective norm), and their perceived ability to perform the behavior. Students in this study gained self-efficacy through successfully becoming more active, and peer support by participating in cooperative games as opposed to competitive games. These factors improved perceived behavior control and the subjective norm, respectively. Together, these changes influenced the students’ intention, which ultimately determined their behavior.

Games increasing physical activity in children are only the beginning; many other audiences and health issues are the target of games currently in the market. Lumosity, a game created for all ages to promote brain health, has been shown to improve brain functions, such as cognition and memory, among others. Re-Mission, another game created and extensively studied by HopeLab, is a game that improves childhood cancer outcomes by helping kids adhere to their treatment plans. A 2008 randomized control trial of Re-Mission showed increases in both knowledge and self-efficacy by playing the game, and a recent 2012 brain-imaging study showed increased neural responses that are typically associated with reward and positive motivation. And one of my favorites, Zombies, Run!, motivates players to run, in real life, as they try to escape a quickly approaching, virtual zombie attack.

Lumosity

Lumosity

Re-Mission

Re-Mission

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field of serious games has great potential to impact public health, especially with the current vast adoption of mobile, self-tracking, and movement-sensing technologies. To successfully create a game that achieves behavior change and impacts health status, evidence-based behavior change models must inform its design. The serious games movement is demonstrating how the difficulties of behavior change can be overcome through creative application of theory and innovation in an already successful field. So before we ban our kids from video games during the summer months, let’s look into what games might keep them entertained while also improving their health!

Our mission here at Danya is to provide innovative solutions for social impact. We work to provide products and services that meet user needs and expectations and operate with technology already in use. As the field of serious games continues to expand, Danya will certainly be looking for opportunities to incorporate this innovative solution to achieve meaningful, public health impact.

By Katie Mooney

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The Silent Crisis

Men take pride in many things. Fixing stuff. Lifting heavy objects. Eating large quantities of food. Growing beards. But too often, men take pride in their ability to avoid the doctor.

Coughing up a lung? It’ll pass.

Broken leg? Walk it off.

Mysterious growth has gained sentience? You can never have too many friends.

It’s as though men think the number of doctor visits is inversely related to toughness. Avoiding the doctor doesn’t result in a merit badge of manliness. It results in increased mortality rates.

June is Men’s Health Month, a time to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are half as likely as women to see a doctor or health professional for preventive services. In 2011, CDC found that U.S. women’s life expectancy is nearly 5 years longer than men’s. Men are more likely than women to die from many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, and HIV.

This disparity in men’s health is often referred to as the “silent crisis” due to men’s tendency to procrastinate when it comes to their health and not seek care until it is too late. Many men won’t speak up about health issues or will outright deny symptoms with the misguided belief that if they just tough it out, then their health will get better on its own. What these men don’t realize is that avoiding the doctor is a selfish act because it’s not only their health that they’re jeopardizing, but also the happiness and well-being of their family members and loved ones who will watch them get sick.

There are several campaigns working to raise awareness of men’s health issues and encourage men to take a more active role in their health. The successful Movember campaign has not only resulted in millions of mustaches being grown, but also millions of dollars raised for prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. Men’s Health Network’s Wear Blue campaign provides a number of helpful tools and resources for those looking to increase awareness of men’s health issues.

Danya has worked on several government initiatives to improve men’s health, specifically, as it relates to HIV and STD testing and prevention. For example, Danya provides marketing support for CDC’s Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign, which is designed to promote HIV testing among black gay and bisexual men and to demonstrate that knowing one’s HIV status is important and empowering information. Danya also manages CDC’s National Prevention Information Network, which provides HIV, STD, viral hepatitis, and TB prevention information and campaign resources for men in addition to other populations.

These organizations are doing their part to encourage men to take a more active role in their health and visit their doctor for preventive care. What about you? What are some ways that you can help end the silent crisis?

By Jeff Slutz

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National Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Time for the Truth about Tanning

Ah, the merry month of May—time for prom, the beach, and Memorial Day, that long, sun-filled weekend that kicks off the summer.

Tanning 1

It’s no coincidence that May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention campaign this year is all about sunburns.

But everyone—especially teens—needs to hear a bigger message, too: There is no safe tan, contrary to what your local tanning salon wants you to believe. Did you know that many metro areas now have more tanning salons per square mile than Starbucks or McDonald’s? So there are plenty of opportunities to fry all year round, with a discount for frequent tanners. Researchers have even documented a trend of mother/daughter bonding through tanning bed visits!

tanning 2Teens, in particular, are vulnerable to the media mania promoting sun-kissed skin. And so, melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, is becoming more and more common among young people. The United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) 1999–2009 Cancer Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report shows that melanoma is the second most common cancer among young people age 15 to 29. And teens just keep on tanning—about one in three young white women under 25 tans indoors. Having sunburns early in life is equally dangerous.

Getting the no-tan message across to teens is a challenge. After all, it’s hard for teenagers—just like the rest of us—to connect what we do today to health outcomes down the road.tanning 3

 

To help with this task, Danya was pleased to develop The Truth about Tanning infographic for CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control as part of the NPIN contract. (You’ll see images from the infographic here, and you can download The Truth about Tanning for your website, social network, or blog!) Based on behavioral interventions that have been successful in reducing intentional tanning, the infographic dispels common myths about tanning with a focus on appearance-related themes, which are definitely top-of-mind for young women.

My personal favorite image from the infographic plays up the “yuck factor” with the risk of picking up skin infections from tanning beds that haven’t been cleaned properly—or at all! More and more dorms and apartment complexes are offering tanning facilities as a perk to attract residents . . . but who’s doing the cleaning?

PrintCDC also recommends these easy ways to avoid sunburn:

  • Schedule outdoor activities before 10 or after 4 when UV rays are less intense.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim.
  • Use sunscreen with at least 15 SPF even on cloudy days. Put it on again every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

As a life-long sun lover, I admit it’s tempting to ignore the facts (just this once, I tell myself—I’ll cover up next time). But the mirror doesn’t lie. The truth is, we pay a price for tanning, regardless of the source, sunlight or tanning bed. Melanoma is just not worth the tan it takes to get there.

By Madeline Barrow

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May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Image credit -- CDC's Vital Signs: Preventing Repeat Teen Births

Image credit — CDC’s Vital Signs: Preventing Repeat Teen Births

I hesitate to admit this on a work-related blog, but since May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, here goes: I watch MTV’s Teen Mom 2 almost every week. Almost every week, I find myself criticizing the moms on the show for being so immature, and then reminding myself that I need to have more empathy because the moms are still kids, too.

Inevitably, that leads me to wonder what it would have been like had I become a mom at 16. Would I have finished high school, much less college? Would I have ever been able to leave my hometown (and the help of family members)? Could I have raised a healthy, successful child?

The honest answer to my questions is maybe, maybe not.

There are a lot of statistics out in the world about teen moms. According to CDC, they are less likely to finish high school – only about 50% of teen moms receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age (compared to 90% of women who did not give birth during adolescence).

There are also a lot of statistics about babies born to teen moms. They are more likely to have fewer skills and be less prepared for kindergarten, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, drop out of high school, give birth as a teenager, and be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult.

But teen pregnancies can be prevented. That’s why it’s one of CDC’s Winnable Battle areas. And that’s just one of the reasons Danya is proud to provide assistance to CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health through an NPIN Task Order.

Over the past two decades, teen pregnancy rates have fallen in the United States. Still, according to CDC, in 2011, 329,797 babies were born to teen mothers (age 15–19). Perhaps this is even more surprising: In an April 2013 issue of Vital Signs, CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health announced that nearly one in five teen births is a repeat birth, meaning that the mother has had two or more pregnancies that resulted in live birth before age 20. That’s about 183 repeat teen births a day in the United States.

There are disparities in teen birth rates, with non-Hispanic black youth, Hispanic/Latino youth, and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth of any race or ethnicity experiencing the highest rates of teen pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, American Indian and Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and black teens are about 1.5 times more likely to have a repeat teen birth, compared to white teens.

Repeat births pose additional risks to teen moms and their babies. For moms, it further tightens resources and education and employment opportunities. For babies, rates of preterm and low birth rate are higher in teens with a repeat birth, as compared to first births.

What can we do to prevent teen pregnancies – and teen repeat pregnancies? And how do we talk about teen pregnancy prevention without criticizing and disparaging teens who are parents? These are difficult questions to answer because teen pregnancy is such a controversial topic. But it’s important and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

In Vital Signs, CDC suggests that all teens, including teen parents, can:

  • Choose not to have sex.
  • Use birth control correctly every time if they are having sex. They should also use condoms every time they have sex to prevent disease.
  • Discuss sexual health issues with their parents, partner, health care professionals, and other adults and friends they trust.
  • Visit www.hhs.gov/opa to find a family planning clinic near them for birth control if they choose to be sexually active.

Although there are lots of statistics about teen parents and their babies, being a teen parent is about so much more than numbers. Don’t we all think we are going to beat the statistics anyway, especially as teenagers? Sometimes, we do. That’s a little bit of what I hope we get to see on Teen Mom 2.

By Stacy Fentress

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Minority Health Determines the Health of the Nation

minority 1

April was National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness about health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines health disparities as “…preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.”

Health disparities can be caused by socioeconomic status, little or no access to medical care, geographic region, language barriers, social structures, environmental threats, education status, and many other factors. As we celebrate National Minority Health Month, it is important to note how minority health influences the health of this nation. One key example is the health disparity that exists among African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos. According to a study that was published in 2010 by CDC, 1 in 52 Hispanics/Latinos and 1 in 22 African Americans will receive an HIV diagnosis during their lifetimes, compared to an estimated 1 in 170 whites.

minority 2During the 2nd Annual Morehouse College Health Disparity Symposium on April 17, 2013, four public health professionals representing different departments within CDC discussed how high-impact prevention programs can promote health equity. High-impact prevention programs are interventions focused on the places and populations where needs are most urgent and where programs will have the most impact. The speakers also focused on the 21st century challenges that organizations like CDC face in offering solutions to public health problems, such as violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pandemics, and access to healthcare.

Are Inequities Inevitable?

Dr. Alex Crosby, a medical epidemiologist in the Surveillance Branch of the Division of Violence Prevention at CDC, opened the discussion with a presentation titled “Are Inequities Inevitable?” and focused on violence in communities of color like Chicago, New Orleans, and Miami. One of the most striking visuals Dr. Crosby showed was a bar graph that compared educational attainment with homicide rates; communities where educational attainment was above high school levels were less likely to see homicides in their neighborhoods versus communities where education attainment was less than high school. Dr. Crosby emphasized that health disparities, like violence, cannot be viewed as independent incidences. Instead, determinants of health like high-quality education and safe housing influence health outcomes, and our prevention efforts should address the symptoms, not just the disease.

Promoting Health Equity

Dr. Hazel Dean, deputy director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), followed Dr. Crosby and discussed promoting health equity for the prevention of STIs among young people. Along with Dr. Crosby, Dr. Dean discussed the impact of STIs on young people of color and how determinants of health influence health outcomes. Dr. Dean explained that young people of color are affected by STIs and HIV/AIDS more than their white counterparts, and this outcome is tied to their education level, access to health insurance, and the cultural sensitivity of their health care providers. Dr. Dean said that interventions like CDC’s national HIV/AIDS campaign, Act Against AIDS, are models for reaching high-risk populations like African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and men who have sex with men (MSM) about HIV prevention. Dr. Dean explained that, “When we improve our strategies, we improve our health outcomes.”

Vulnerable Populations

Maleeka Glover, senior research scientist and lead for CDC’s Vulnerable Populations Planning for Pandemic Influenza with the Influenza Coordination Unit (ICU), discussed the importance of risk communication and pandemic preparedness for populations who are most at risk. One example Ms. Glover used was pandemic preparedness for H1N1. According to Ms. Glover, vulnerable populations for H1N1 include: the elderly, pregnant women, those with developmental disabilities, minorities, individuals with limited English proficiency, public housing residents, and those living in low-income residences. Often, there is a care gap among these populations when it comes to seeking vaccination and understanding risk. Ms. Glover explained that risk communication must be culturally competent and tailored to these groups.

minority 3Social Determinants of Health

Collectively, the panelists at the Health Disparity Symposium proved that while race and ethnicity are not directly linked to higher rates of diseases, it is important to note that social determinants of health shape the context of vulnerability, and this leads to an increased risk of exposure to disease. For example, insufficient screening, confidentiality concerns, lack of access to health care, and multiple sex partners can lead to an increased risk of acquiring and transmitting diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) report on Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health represents a global framework on how to eliminate health disparities. The WHO’s overarching recommendations to eliminate health disparities involve:

  • Improving daily living conditions, including living and working conditions that will create better lifestyles.
  • Tackling the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources addresses the inequitable pay between men and women so that society is organized at the global, national, and local levels. The public sector will play a vital role in this agenda.
  • Measuring and understanding the problem and assessing the impact of action, the first step to addressing a problem is to acknowledge that a problem exists. Global health equity surveillance systems should monitor health inequities and the social determinants of health to evaluate the health equity impact of policy and action. This will involve strong public health research and evaluation.

It is clear that individual risk behaviors do not occur in a vacuum. When it comes to high-impact prevention efforts, it is important to take into account these social determinants of health, and how these factors contribute to risk factors for acquiring and transmitting diseases.

Achieving Health Equity in the 21st Century

minority 4There are efforts and programs in place in this country to address the ongoing concern of health disparities. Dr. Leandris Liburd, director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) at CDC, highlighted the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) as one. This national movement aims to increase the effectiveness of programs that target the elimination of health disparities through the coordination of partners, leaders, and stakeholders committed to action. What began as a collection of views and recommendations from community leaders and other public and private partners to achieve health equity resulted in the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. This strategy provides an overarching roadmap for eliminating health disparities through cooperative and strategic actions and outlines 20 specific goals and objectives for public and private partnerships to help racial and ethnic minorities reach their full health potential. The roadmap also serves as a guide for local organizations to use to identify which strategies are most effective in reaching their communities.

minority 5Released along with the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity was the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. This plan outlines goals and actions HHS will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. Some of these goals include: increasing the availability, quality, and use of data to improve the health of minority populations; assessing the impact of all HHS policies, programs, and decisions to reduce health disparities; and measuring and providing incentives for better health care quality for minority populations.

In our opinion, reducing and eliminating health disparities, especially among minority populations, is an ethical issue. We cannot accept a health care infrastructure where individuals and populations are subject to premature death and disease due to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability status, age, or gender. Eliminating health disparities means that health care is equitable and easily accessible for all. As health communication practitioners, the Health Disparity Symposium at Morehouse College reinforced to us that health prevention messages must be targeted, and appropriate communication channels must be used to reach audiences in each community that is affected by health disparities and health inequities.

By Tiffany D. Spencer and Kianta Key

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Fun Vine Video Styles for Public Health

The new mobile video app, Vine, burst onto the social media scene in late January 2013 when Twitter acquired and integrated it into their microblogging site. A free video-sharing platform, Vine has distinguished itself in the social space by relying on brevity with videos limited to 6 seconds in length. Much like early adopters of Twitter, Vine users have dazzled viewers with just how much creativity, innovation, and information they can pack into one 6-second clip. Resource-strapped groups can use the app to record and publish engaging content—all within one app.

While questions surfaced in mid-February regarding the new tool’s security, GSA approved the use of Vine by federal users, and several videos have emerged in recent weeks from across agencies, including NASA, the Interior Department, and Health.Data.gov. So, not to be outdone, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite Vine styles below for use within public health.

The Sketch Artist

This video style is great for representing checklists, textual information like hashtags and weblinks, and showcasing the development of other visuals like brainstorming sessions.

Public health use case: CDC’s NPIN used the sketch artist style by merging several quick recordings together to show development of a checklist for their webcast series.

NPIN Vine 1

(Click on image above to view Vine video)

The Magician

Stop-motion recording is a great way to condense action that happens over an extended, more-than-6-second period of time, by suggesting the movement of inanimate objects using quick clips.

Public health use case: Youth Against AIDS followers showed the elimination of HIV with a Pac-man-style head eating away at the word representing it.

NPIN Vine 2

(Click on image above to view Vine video)

The Tour Guide

Viewers love getting a sneak peek, so give them the inside scoop by previewing event preparations, product rollouts, or by giving tours of your office.

Public health use case: CDC’s NPIN generated buzz about their upcoming webcast by showing the set-up process of equipment required for the event.

NPIN Vine 3

(Click on image above to view Vine video)

The Teacher

With these short, looping videos, Vine is great for showing viewers how to perform simple but important behaviors, like how to lay a baby in a crib or how to make a fruit smoothie.

Public health use case: This Vine’r teaches viewers a quick and easy way to get energy at work by running in place.

NPIN Vine 4

(Click on image above to view Vine video)

The Prop Master

Using a prop in a video is a great way to easily represent big ideas quickly, especially when paired with a statistic to increase health topic awareness.

Public health use case: This Vine’r slowly reveals a tobacco death rate statistic (“Tobacco kills every 6 seconds”) with a burning cigarette. (We also really like their clever incorporation of a statistic that also relates to the video length.)

NPIN Vine 5

(Click on image above to view Vine video)

Bonus: The Mini-sode

We haven’t found a public health version of it yet, but we’d love to see your ideas about how to create a series of related Vine episodes. These Tribeca Film Festival finalists, however, show some adventures of a Lego Batman, book beetle, and wooden Pygmalion characters.

By Katy Capers

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LinkedIn for Public Health

LinkedIn public health 1LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional social network. With more than 200 million subscribers, the platform has become the premiere online space to network, job search, research industry topics, and join business interest groups. For public health organizations, there are a number of features and tools within LinkedIn that should be used to help expand your network, reach target groups, and expand your resources and expertise. The following outlines the opportunities and challenges within public health associated with each feature.

Create a Profile

Everyone on LinkedIn needs to create a personal profile to interact on the network. Establishing a profile is an excellent opportunity to showcase your public health background, projects, and skill set. With a profile, you are able to join discussion groups, receive updates from connections and industry experts, job search, and be recruited for positions that fit your expertise.

The challenge with creating a profile is that it requires regular updating. As a representative of both your own personal brand and that of your organization, it is important to ensure that the information you relay is reliable, accurate, and consistent with others in your field.

Build a Company Page

LinkedIn public health 2Company pages allow organizations to tell their story and connect individuals to their brand. With this platform, public health providers can highlight the latest news and updates, upcoming events, as well as products and services. Establishing a presence on LinkedIn that showcases your agency’s expertise and promotes the resources and tools unique to your organization helps further the mission and helps your organization reach its governmental and private partners and stakeholders.

The challenge with developing a company page is that it can be resource-intensive. Someone should be updating and monitoring the information daily, as well as responding to any feedback from the page. In addition, the best company pages are those that include relevant, up-to-date, and engaging information.  If your organization’s clearance process is rigorous, it could hinder the process for adding timely information to the page.

Groups

For public health professionals, joining LinkedIn groups is an excellent way to network with colleagues and partners from the same industry. You can join discussions, get updates from other public health professionals about the latest news and events, as well as trade best practices and lessons learned.  LinkedIn members are able to join up to 50 groups, and, currently, more than 1,400 public health-related groups are available within the LinkedIn professional network.

Organizations that choose to start groups may benefit from LinkedIn as well.  Create a LinkedIn group and solicit feedback about your projects and campaigns, provide relevant information to other public health practitioners, and ensure the discussions about your public health campaigns are informed and helpful to your partners and stakeholders. LinkedIn allows for the creation of both open and private groups, which makes it easier to facilitate small or large discussion groups. Also, LinkedIn provides the ability to view the “Top Influencers” in the group. If you know the connections that are moving your discussions along, this could help with dissemination of important information, both in and out of the LinkedIn sphere.

The challenge with groups is that they can also be resource-intensive. To keep people engaged at the federal, state, local, and private levels, you have to constantly update with new discussion materials that are interesting to those groups. Another challenge is ensuring that someone monitors the group discussions on a regular basis to keep the conversation consistent and relevant. There is also a danger of irrelevant or inappropriate comments being posted in the discussion group page. It is easy to delete comments and individuals from a group, but it is a challenge to continually monitor the activities on the platform.

Recruitment Tools

LinkedIn is rich with recruiting aids for any public health organization.  One particularly helpful tool is the advanced search function. It allows you to search for LinkedIn subscribers by industry, titles, region, and language. Organizations looking for international candidates can narrow their search by using key categories. Advertise positions using LinkedIn ads is a great way to gain additional attention to an open position. Advertising through LinkedIn discussion groups or on a company page is also an easy way to spread the word about jobs. If your organization needs a little more help with recruiting efforts, LinkedIn does offer Talent Solutions. With this service, LinkedIn consultants can do the heavy lifting and help your agency find the right candidates for your job openings.

Your organization should consider your budget when thinking about what recruiting tools you would like to use on the LinkedIn channel.  To add a career tab to a company page, your organization has to subscribe to a premium membership. There are also some costs associated with both LinkedIn Advertising and Talent Solutions. Determining a budget, therefore, should be a part of any strategy around using LinkedIn for your organization.

Use the LinkedIn Tools

LinkedIn public health 3There are a number of tools within the LinkedIn platform that your organization may find useful. LinkedIn polls, for example, allow users to pose questions on other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Public health professionals can use this medium to get a quick pulse on various subjects.

If your organization decides to pose a question, it should probably be assessed through your internal clearance process.  As mentioned before, this may prevent the timely posting of polls. This may also affect your response rate, as polls on hot issues are more likely to promote a response.

LinkedIn and its third-party partners also created mobile tools that help with strengthening connections. Cardmunch, for instance, helps you organize contacts. Business cards can be scanned into your phone and then connected to your LinkedIn contacts.  ProInsights, a third-party LinkedIn developer, designed a mobile app that creates infographics based on LinkedIn profiles. This is a creative way to illustrate your organization’s expertise to partners and stakeholders.

Of course, the challenge with any mobile tool is that there are many devices, with many operating systems, and serving different levels of mobile users.  You should research the availability of each application based on your mobile technology. If your organization decides to use the tool, training on the applications should be made available.

As of April 2013, LinkedIn is the third largest social network in the world, and it is continuing to grow. If you are not currently harnessing the resources of LinkedIn for your organization, you should certainly be researching the possibilities. For more information about the platform, particularly for public health purposes, check out CDC NPIN’s SlideShare presentation and webcast In the Know: LinkedIn and SlideShare for Public Health. How is your organization using LinkedIn for public health purposes?

 By Tracye Poole

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