Assistant Account Executive
Maria is a former Assistant Account Executive at Ogilvy PR.
Assistant Account Executive
Maria is a former Assistant Account Executive at Ogilvy PR.
With the official start of summer approaching in the next two weeks the thought of outdoor events and relaxing vacations fill my mind. When the summer sun hits my skin I immediately feel happy. I’m ready to throw caution to the wind and hit the beach – which is exactly what I did last weekend. I had perfect beach weather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
After enjoying a day of lounging and playing in the ocean I noticed my friend, a fair-skinned African American woman, with a nice red glow. She’d forgotten to apply sun screen and had a pretty serious burn. Her painful predicament reminded me just how important sun protection is, and how sharing this message with everyone, especially people of color, can save a life.
Last month The Huffington Post posted the article, Skin Cancer and African Americans: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It that focused on this topic.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer comprises just 1 to 2 percent of all cancers among African Americans, but less than half of melanomas in African Americans are diagnosed at an early stage compared to 74 percent in Hispanics and 84 percent in Caucasians. Reggae music lovers may remember that reggae legend Bob Marley discovered a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of one of his toes, and the cancer ultimately spread to his lungs and brain causing his death 31 years ago.
While skin cancer is less likely in people of color, it is more deadly because it is most often caught in its later stage. The article also provides an interesting slide show to address the most common misconceptions about cancer in dark skin, such as black people don’t get skin cancer (we do!) and dark skin is a natural SPF (not entirely true!).
Even the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted the cause. In 2010 the AMA established a policy to support and encourage efforts to increase awareness of skin cancer risks, skin cancer screening and sun protective behaviors in communities of color. The policy includes partnerships with the National Medical Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology to get the word out about the importance of sun protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following tips on ways everyone can protect their skin from the sun:
I plan to share these tips with my friends and hopefully this weekend we’ll avoid sun burns!
What are sun protection habits you use regularly? Do you encourage friends and family to do the same?
Category: Social Marketing
This blog was co-authored by Maria James and Carrie Dooher.
Chronic diseases, often referred to as “lifestyle” diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. and also the leading causes of death and disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases. Specifically with regards to obesity, just last week the CDC released a new report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine warning that 42 percent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030 – while that may seem to be some time in the future, that’s actually just 18 years away.
But this is not just an issue that afflicts the U.S.; it is a global epidemic estimated to kill 36 million people a year and is so important and acute that in 2011 for only the second time in its history, the United Nations (UN) addressed the prevention of non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, at their General Assembly meeting to set a new international agenda on the prevention of NCDs. The first and only other time that the UN General Assembly met on a health issue was to discuss the world epidemic of AIDS. World leaders joined Health and Development Ministers in the consensus adoption of a wide-ranging Political Declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs; this Declaration’s implementation will be evaluated in 2014. And progress is already beginning to be benchmarked against it – on May 16, the World Health Organization released new data highlighting increases in hypertension and diabetes incidence around the world in anticipation of the World Health Assembly, to be held in Geneva from 21 to 26 May 2012, which will consider progress made from last Septembers meetings. In addition, the World Health Assembly will continue discussions about developing a global monitoring framework and a set of voluntary targets for prevention and control of these diseases.
While there are many disciplines considering solutions to NCDs, one that should not be ignored is social marketing. As an effective health promotion strategy, social marketing can be, and has been, used to motivate people to use health information and change behavior in ways that promote and maintain good health. And a critical step in creating positive behavior change to impact health is simple, science-based, behavior-focused communication messages on nutrition and health.
On May 1st, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation announced the publication of the proceedings from its 2011 Global Diet and Physical Activity Communications Summit: “Insights to Motivate Healthful, Active Lifestyles,” in the May 2012 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Reviews, stressing again the need for health communicators to be part of the solution in addressing NCDs. As U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin stated in the keynote address at IFIC Foundation’s Global Summit in September 2011, there is an essential need for communicators of global health to provide clear, simple information based on the latest science, to stress prevention and to employ a comprehensive, holistic approach to combating non-communicable diseases or NCDs.
Along with the release of the Nutrition Reviews article, last week the IFIC Foundation also released a helpful one-page fact sheet entitled, “Communication Strategies to Help Reduce the Prevalence of Non-communicable Diseases.” The fact sheet combines the key findings from the Summit into 10 helpful tips for communicating health messages with consumers.
The top five tips include:
1. Use easy to understand messages.
2. Set realistic goals.
3. Connect with children early in life on how they can succeed.
4. Focus on “how to do it” instead of “what to do.”
5. A key message should be “do something.”
When the UN measures progress in 2014, what are your thoughts on how far we will have come?
For the past few weeks I’ve been following the ongoing feature published in The Washington Post called Black Women in America, which stems from a new nation-wide survey by the Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation that paints an interesting portrait of the lives of Black women. The survey includes interviews with more than 800 women and covers topics such as body image, personal finance, discrimination and overall happiness. Last week’s article, “Breast cancer toll among black women fed in part by fear, silence” really stopped me in my tracks.
According to the article, Black women are less likely than women of other ethnicities to get breast cancer, but are more likely to die from it. Death rates are 41 percent higher among African American women than among white women.
A separate study published last Wednesday in the International Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Detection and Prevention compared mortality rates of black and white women in the nation’s 25 largest cities. The study found nearly five black women die per day from breast cancer.
The article provides the following factors that may contribute to these alarming rates:
As a communicator, I have to ask myself with so much information available on breast cancer why are so many Black women dying from it, and how can we turn this around?
One solution the article identified is the power of word of mouth marketing – in other words, simply hearing stories from other Black women who have had breast cancer would make the difference.
Many Black women interviewed said after they were diagnosed and shared their experience other women began revealing their experiences with the disease. The energy and collective strength that empowers women to boldly participate in breast cancer events, such as Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, is not being translated into the Black community. Messages about early detection and images of other women, who look like them, who had the disease and survived, are not being shared.
Black women are suffering in silence. And their silence is deadly.
This blog post was originally published on WomenOlogy.
Yesterday I attended a roundtable luncheon called Powerful PSAs, sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, TV Access, Nielsen, and Crosby Marketing Communications.
After a year of working in public service messaging through my work on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Inside Knowledge and Screen for Life campaigns, I was intrigued by the invitation and compelled to attend. My goal was to walk away with nuggets of wisdom on how to improve our PSA production methods and distribution techniques in the future.
The session kicked off with a panel of radio and television broadcasters from Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc.; WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore, MD; NBC Universal Entertainment Group; Black Entertainment Network; and WUSA-9 in Washington, DC.
After listening to the panelists give their insights on “what works,” I realized there isn’t a ‘one-size fit all’ solution when it comes to production elements or getting your PSA placed. While the local station PSA directors on the panel said they value PSAs that provide community angles, the network station PSA directors noted that they value PSAs that are more ‘evergreen’ with national messaging.
Here are six take-aways from the luncheon:
What do you think about these tips? Based on your experiences, which tip resonates with you the most?
I can only recall a few moments in my life (so far) where I stood in awe at the realization that I’d just witnessed history in the making. Thursday was one of those moments. Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin led a press conference to announce the first National Prevention Strategy.
The National Prevention Council, comprised of 17 Federal agencies and chaired by the Surgeon General, developed the National Prevention Strategy with input from stakeholders, the public, and the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.
This new national strategy aims to reduce leading causes of death and illness, such as smoking, bad eating habits and drug abuse. By focusing on prevention, the National Prevention Strategy plans to help Americans stay healthy and fit.
The goal is to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The Strategy’s four Strategic Directions and seven Priorities include evidence-based recommendations fundamental to improving the nation’s health. Implementation of the Strategy will include public and private partners working together at the national, state, tribal, local, and territorial levels.
During the press conference, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), a major supporter of the strategy, said as a nation, we spend more than $2 trillion on health care each year, but we only invest 4 cents on every dollar on prevention. For every dollar invested in prevention, we would save $6.
Harkin said its time we move from a “sick care” system to a health care system. The idea of shifting our health consciousness away from sickness and disease and towards prevention and wellness was the theme for the moment.
The goal of creating a healthier America isn’t a new concept. For years, federal, national and local partners have independently and jointly come together to educate about the benefits of healthy living. Turn on the television and you will see the increasing number of reality shows focusing on weight-loss and overall mental and physical well-being. While this strategy was created by the government, ultimately the success of this strategy must come from the adoption of its four Strategic Directions and seven Priority areas by everyone – both government and private sector alike.
What was do you think the National Prevention Strategy will mean to the future of health and wellness in America? And, what does it mean to you?
If you’re brainstorming ideas for new ways to utilize spokespeople or key experts for your social marketing campaign, look no further than Twitter and consider hosting a Twitter chat.
Twitter chats are arranged conversations that happen on Twitter through the use of a hashtag, a word that links tweets together using the # sign, that joins everyone in a virtual conversation. They are usually publicized in advance, occur at a specific time and may even include a moderator.
Healthcare experts are starting to embrace the use of these chats as a way to join the conversation about key health issues. Here are the two recent health-related live chats on Twitter I found interesting:
Topic: Concussion in Sports
Twitter Chat Host: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Injury Center
Hashtag Used: #CDCHeadsUp
Panel: Former professional athletes and health experts
Today, the CDC hosted a chat that focused on concussion in sports. The virtual panel included professional athletes and experts, such as Sean Morey, a former NFL player; Chris Nowinski, former pro-wrestler and college football player; Dr. Stan Herring, team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners ; and Dr. Richard Hunt, director of the CDC’s Division of Injury Response. The CDC was able to utilize social media as a way to become apart of the online discussion about head injuries in sports. The combination of medical professionals and professional athletes helped balance the conversation between medical expertise and practical knowledge.
USA Today held a live chat on Jan. 10th with Pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard, aka @TheKidsDoctor, to answer questions and discuss myths and controversies surrounding vaccines. This is a great example of how to use a Twitter chat as a platform to discuss relevant issues in the news. In this case, the recent media coverage surrounding vaccines and autism (check out Alex Hughes post earlier this month on the topic: What can public health communicators learn from the autism/vaccine debate) provided the perfect opportunity for USA Today to allow participants to voice their thoughts and/or concerns about vaccines and engage with a doctor around the topic.
While hosting a Twitter chat does require some planning, it is a simple and free way to discuss health-related issues using spokespeople or experts in a transparent way.
Here is a list of a few weekly/bi-weekly healthcare twitter chats to check out:
#eldercarechat – A bi-weekly chat held on Wednesday’s at 1 p.m. EST, about issues of importance to elder care professionals and caregivers.
#Socpharm – A weekly chat held on Wednesday’s from 8-9 p.m. EST, about social media and marketing in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. Each chat is moderated by Eileen O’Brien. Eileen invites people from pharma companies to guest moderate once a month. The chat also includes guest moderators from industry publications, agencies and other related companies.
Have you ever utilized a live Twitter chat for either a campaign or personally? If so, I’d love to know about your experience.
Note: Updated to correct the moderator for the #Socpharm Tweet Chat.
My mother doesn’t have health insurance and I’m worried.
She is the director for a small daycare back home in North Carolina and unfortunately her employer cannot afford to provide health care coverage for its employees. I, like so many Americans, have my eyes and ears glued to the news to hear the latest updates on what’s happening with health care reform.
On Monday, Jan. 3rd, Kaiser Health News provided a great, easy-to-read, outline of the nine ways the new health care law may affect us in 2011.
Here are some of the highlights from the list:
Insurance Rebates: According to Kaiser Health News, health insurers must spend at least 80 percent of their premiums on medical care or they face the possibility of giving rebates to consumers. Policies sold to large employers must hit an 85 percent spending target and self-insured employers are exempt. The article states the out of 75 million people who have insurance coverage under the rule; 9 million will be eligible for a rebate in 2012.
Lower prescription costs for seniors: Starting this month, drug companies will give seniors 50 percent off brand drugs. According to the National Council on Aging, the estimates savings under the new law could reach $1,800 for some seniors.
Calorie postings: Get ready to see calories next to the menu of your favorite meal the trend. Chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, and owners of 20 or more vending machines, will have to display calorie information on menus, menu boards and drive-thru signs. Restaurants must also provide diners with a brochure that includes detailed nutritional information, like the fat content of their dishes. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to finalize the rules for these changes this year.
Higher Medicare Premiums: Kaiser Health News reports the new health law will freeze the threshold for Medicare Part B, which covers physician and outpatient services, at the current level: incomes of $85,000 or above for individuals and $170,000 for couples. With this step, beneficiaries who pay higher premiums will rise from 2.4 million in 2011 to 7.8 million in 2019. Also, premiums for Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs, for the first time, will be linked to income. The thresholds will be the same as those for Part B and will not be linked to inflation. About 1.2 million beneficiaries will pay the income-related Part D premium this year, rising to 4.2 million beneficiaries in 2019.
Restrictions on medical savings accounts: The most notable hit to my wallet is the change in how I can use money from my flexible spending account, or pre-taxable income some employee’s set-aside for medical purchases. Starting this year, funds in this account can no longer be used on over-the-counter drugs, including drugs that treat fevers or allergies and acne, unless they have a doctor’s prescription. Also, starting this year, those with health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) or Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs) accounts who spend money inappropriately will not only owe taxes on the money spent, but also face a tax penalty of 20 percent, which is double what it was. All pre-tax accounts, medical devices such as eyeglasses and crutches, and co-pays and deductibles will still qualify for use with the FSA, HRA and MSA accounts. Insulin obtained without a prescription is also eligible.
Bolstering seniors’ access to primary care: Medicare payments for primary care are going up by 10 percent from Jan. 1 through the end of 2015. Health practitioners will qualify for the bonus only if 60 percent or more of the services they provide are for primary care. General surgeons also will receive an increase if they are practicing in areas where there are doctor shortages. This portion of the health law is expected to expand coverage to 32 million more Americans by 2019.
Staying Healthy: According to Kaiser Health News, there are several provisions of the law that promote prevention of disease, especially for seniors, which is great news. Starting January, Medicare enrollees will be able to get many preventive health services for free – such as vaccinations and cancer screenings. The law eliminates any cost-sharing such as copayments or deductibles for Medicare-covered preventive services that are recommended as well as any cost sharing for the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam, which previously included a 20 percent co-pay. For those people working for small employers, they will get some help, which is great news for my mom. The law authorizes the federal government to issue grants totaling $200 million for companies with fewer than 100 workers that start wellness programs focused on nutrition, smoking cessation, physical fitness and stress management.
Trimming Medicare Advantage: Private health plans that provide Medicare coverage will feel a squeeze under the new health law as payment for Medicare Advance plans is being restructured. Rates this year will be frozen at 2010 levels and lower rates will be phased in beginning in 2012.
Fighting hospital infections: According to a study by the Archives of Internal Medicine, about 1.7 million patients pick up life-threatening, but preventable infections, at the hospitals. In July, the federal government will stop paying for treatment of some hospital-acquired infections. The Medicare program for the elderly and disabled and many private insurers already ban payments for treating many of these infections.
I found this list to be extremely helpful in my efforts to understand all the new health care laws and what they’ll mean to my personal health care and my wallet.
What are your thoughts about the new health care laws for 2011?
As a former print journalist, I remember two of my biggest pet peeves were receiving information from public relations professionals that was not appropriate for our audience and submitted way past our publication deadline. These annoyances soon became the driving force behind my transition from journalism into public relations. Now that I’m working on the other side, I realize just how challenging it can be to obtain media coverage. Often times securing media coverage for our cause-related issues and campaigns can be just plain difficult. Deciphering how journalists prefer to receive information in an age of social media and instant access just became a bit easier.
This week Bulldog Reporter and TEKGroup International released the 2010 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices. The survey was designed to help communicators understand media relations from the horses’ mouth. The survey, conducted this past October using SurveyMonkey.com, received responses from 1,404 journalists. Out of the 1,400 journalists surveyed, 46 percent were editors or editorial staff and 35.6 percent were reporters, writers, columnists or freelance journalists.
Here are three important takeaways from the survey:
Keep online news rooms and corporate websites up-to-date and user-friendly
According to the report, 97 percent of journalist surveyed use online newsrooms and corporate websites as a source of information. Over 80 percent report visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once per month. However, 39 percent, an increase from last year, agreed that when they visit these organization websites, it’s difficult to find the information they need. Information such as the organizations’ media representatives, contact information and press materials were cited as key information that was hard to find. Online newsrooms and corporate websites count!
Research media outlets before pitching
About 60 percent of the journalists surveyed fully agree that PR professionals do not understand which subjects journalists or their media cover. Nearly half of journalists or 46.5 percent generally believe PR people interrupt their work flow and waste their time with phone calls. Understanding the media outlet you’re pitching and their preferred method for contact is critical. The survey shows the majority of journalists prefer to receive information about corporate, not-for-profit and government news by e-mail.
Journalists really are using social media as a source for stories
When asked how often they use social media as a source of story ideas or to research stories, 37.8 percent of respondents said they use Facebook once a week or more frequently and 39 percent of bloggers and journalists working on websites use Twitter daily in their work. Facebook is used the most out of all the social networks, followed by Twitter. Surprisingly the survey shows that blogs are losing their popularity among journalists. A small percentage of journalists reported using blogs to keep up with their beats than in the past – 73.4 percent compared to 75.5 percent last year.
I enjoy keeping up with the latest surveys, especially when it comes to best pratices for media relations. Surveys such as this can serve as a tool to measure our own media relations practices to ensure they are effective in getting our messages into the hands of the right person.
In early October I drove home to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to visit my mom, my sister Teresa and my 11-month-old nephew, Noah Allyn. The week before my scheduled trip my sister said something that blew me away. At 11 months, Noah loves McDonald’s Happy Meals. He’s particularly fond of the chicken nuggets, apples and French fries; my guess is because he can grab them quickly and put them in his mouth with ease.
Hearing this I immediately began to worry. Is it too soon to allow him to eat McDonald’s? After all, both my mom and dad’s sides of the family have been affected by diabetes, my brother-in-law too. I worried about what this early exposure to fast food would mean later on in his life.
I’ll admit, the thought of Noah feeding himself was too adorable to miss. So yes, Auntie Ria broke down and purchased Noah a Happy Meal.
I’m sure mothers, and aunts alike, have felt similar concerns about what to feed their little ones. In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors just made the decision a little easier.
According to the Los Angeles Times, on Tuesday, Nov. 2, the board voted 8-3, to ban most of McDonald’s Happy Meals and other fast-food servings with toys to meet new nutritional standards.
This vote makes San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than 600 calories. This move is the city’s attempt to tackle the country’s growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
The city’s new nutritional standards will require food and beverages to contain fewer than 600 calories, and less than 35 percent of total calories will come from fat. Restaurants will also be required to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys. The meal must contain half a cup of fruit and three-fourths cup of vegetables, and offer less than 640 milligrams of sodium and less than 0.5 milligrams of trans fat. Breakfast will have the option of offering half cups of fruit or vegetables.
The ordinance is scheduled to take effect December 2011.
CNN reports today that San Francisco’s mayor plans to veto the city’s ban and release a report outlining the city’s efforts to combat childhood obesity.
San Francisco’s Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure, cited the study Evaluating Fast Food Nutrition and Marketing to Youth, which was released this week by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. According to the study, which examines 12 popular restaurant chains, only 12 out of more than 3,000 kids’ meal combinations met the nutritional guidelines for preschool-aged kids.
The study reports that the fast food industry spent $4.2 billion on advertising in 2009 and found that 40 percent of preschool-aged children ask to go to McDonald’s on a weekly basis, and 15 percent ask on a daily basis. The study also reports that 84 percent of parents say they’ve taken their children to eat fast food at least once in the past week.
As you can guess the ban in San Francisco has created a firestorm of debates. Some argue parents should be able to make their own decisions without government interference, while others argue that childhood obesity is becoming a serious problem in America and moves like this only help combat this problem.
I personally think back to my purchase for Noah and I wonder if I made the right decision. I’m heading to North Carolina again next weekend to celebrate Noah’s first birthday. Now, I can’t say I won’t buy him a Happy Meal (just being honest here). After all, I loved them as a kid and I do want him to have the same fun childhood memories. However, I will think twice and consider healthier options.
What do you think about San Francisco’s move to ban fast food meals for kids with a high calorie count? Do you think other cities will follow suit?
Media Relations Myths