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"Prevention and Wellness Across the Life Span": Highlights From the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting

November 27, 2012

Dr. Reed Tuckson

Dr. Reed Tuckson

In late October, we joined more than 12,000 public health professionals at the American Public Health Association's (APHA) 2012 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The theme of this year's meeting was "Prevention and Wellness Across the Life Span," kicking off with an Opening Session highlighting this theme.

During the Opening Session, Dr. Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealth Group spoke of how engagement in our own health is changing throughout the lifespan. On new technologies, he commented, "You have explosion in wireless and broadband technologies. [The] ability to connect us to our social networks; social networks which we are now learning are perhaps more important in shaping our behavior than our geographical communities in which we physically reside, especially when we deal with people of color and cultural issues. New mobile apps that are able to engage us in a variety of ways."

Later that evening, we joined the APHA communications team and other APHA attendees for a tweetup -- a gathering of public health tweeters who chatted about their work and best practices on Twitter. The group was a mix of experienced tweeters and some who were just getting started on Twitter. We all used #APHA12 to join the conversation throughout the conference.

Throughout the conference we attended sessions with a focus on social media, underserved communities, and health information technology. Here are a few highlights:

  • "Media Advocacy: Breaking Through the Crowded News Cycle"
    In this session, journalists shared strategies for working with news media to share public health messages. One speaker mentioned that the key to pitching health stories to reporters is having personal patient stories, being timely, tying your story into larger public health issues, and knowing the reporter you are pitching to. When it comes to blogging, it's important to include personal anecdotes, make it local, include current events, provide historical context, and include lots of links.
  • "Innovative Strategies for Using Social Media & Health Information Technology in Public Health"
    During this session, speakers highlighted examples of how they are using social media in public health campaigns to engage individuals and community members in innovative ways. For example, one speaker presented about the U.S. Department of Defense's Real Warriors Campaign, a public education campaign "to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families coping with invisible wounds." The Campaign uses outreach and partnerships, print materials, media outreach, an interactive website, mobile website and social media, to share real stories of service members who have reached out for psychological support. They have also found that having a 24/7 call center has been key to linking people to services especially during nights and weekends, when the people they want to reach most seek assistance. In this same session, a speaker from Hep B Free Philadelphia shared his experience using Facebook photo sweepstakes and a video contest to encourage Hepatitis B awareness, screening, and vaccination.
  • "Mobile Apps in Effective Learning and Communication Part 1"
    This session highlighted potential ways to use mobile and develop strategies to engage and influence behavior. Morgan Johnson of The Monday Campaigns, a movement to make Mondays focused on community health issues, spoke of the "Monday Effect." Monday campaigns use texting and email to deliver messages at opportune times and frequencies (Mondays!) to motivate people to practice healthy habits. Another speaker spoke about the benefits of designing mobile apps as a platform for public health emergencies: apps can deliver real-time health information, provide disease surveillance data, incorporate tailored messaging, and allow users to answer questionnaires to inform a diagnosis or seek medical advice. He also spoke of the importance of optimized mobile websites and how, in the future, these apps can integrate data between health records, providers, and hospital systems. The final speaker talked a "one web" vision for developing content across formats and on mobile devices. He used the model of a tiered cake to show the design process: strategy & research > content & structure > technology > e-solutions on top.

In addition to attending conference sessions, throughout the conference people participated in Facing AIDS 2012, our annual online photo sharing initiative for World AIDS Day (December 1), using the new mobile app. Conference attendees from across the U.S. and other countries shared their personal messages about why they are Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day and beyond. You can see the photos here in the gallery.

Jennie Anderson is communications advisor and Mindy Nichamin is new media coordinator for

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This article was provided by The Black AIDS Institute. It is a part of the publication Black AIDS Weekly. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
World AIDS Day 2012: Features and News

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