Today I will begin my blog/journal for my Public Health Campaigns class. When I began this new journey of obtaining a Master’s in Public Health I began paying attention to how public health campaigns made me feel when viewing them. I felt a wide variety of emotion including fear, happiness, humor, and sadness. How can campaigns designed to promote change among humanity create such a wide variety of feelings. Why are they not just happy, motivating, empowering feelings? I then began to compare the feelings I had regarding public health campaigns to what I feel when viewing advertising. The emotions were very similar. It was confusing to me that advertising of products to purchase were so similar in tactics as public health campaigns where people are encouraged not to purchase anything but to change their behavior. Then the more I analyzed the concept of marketing I realized whether it is an ad for a product or a public health and the end goal of both is to promote action or movement. A wide variety of human emotions can promote movement more effectively then just information given. The movement/action hopefully being purchasing the product or changing a belief and acting on that with a change in behavior.
I also began to realize that as a nurse in a hospital setting, currently NICU, I have provided my own health care campaigns in a sense through my patient education. As a nurse you have an amazing opportunity to educate people on health and safety topics. I began to analyze with the beginning of this class, what techniques were motivating my patients and the families to follow the actions I recommend. A few things really jumped out at me as I analyzed my health communication techniques and effectiveness. The level of medical literacy is key to good communication about health and safety matters. There is so much medical jargon in health care and since working in the profession for 21 years I always need to remind myself what is medical jargon and what is medical lay language. I am so familiar with so many terms that I begin to think they are part of normal language. For example, “Your baby has a cardiac defect that was undetected.” Many people would not understand what this statement means. So with my health communication skills as a direct provider, I would say something like this ” Your baby has something wrong with her heart that was just found after her birth.” I would then proceed in assessing their understanding through questions. I would ask them about what they know about the heart and what it does in the body and then begin to explain in a way that I feel best suits them. I always like to leave lots of questions after any explanation because I feel like that is a great way to assess comprehension and readiness to move on to more information. It also allows them to problem solve with someone on what are the best ways to deal with this? For example, “If my newborn is sick, does it matter my husband smokes in the house? .” This I feel empowers them and gives them the confidence to deal with the situation because they feel listened to and the education is catered to them at their level of comprehension and their situation. I do realize that campaigns are a very different from direct patient education, and that public campaigns goal is to move lots of people in preferred direction of the campaigning organization. I just found my personal experience of educating patients and their caregivers to be full of very effective communication techniques and moved people for at least a little while in the way I saw was best for them. It is true that direct providers in health care have great opportunities to support current public health campaigns.
After completing the first reading assignment I began to understand the role the bedside nurse in health communication is more of an empowerment approach then a behavior change approach. The nurse’s most important role in health communication which improves public health one person at a time is to increase comprehension of the health problem occurring and to decease occurrence of further health complications. If the communication and comprehension is good then the patient and family feel more empowered in managing the health problem. The nurse provides so much information about the treatment including processes, time period to expect, complications that can occur, reason the problem occurred in the first place, and resources for support in the community and online. So with all the practical and effective health communication skills nurses have, I can see why Margaret Sanger was so successful in her public health!
I then looked at some health promotion campaigns that I educate people on everyday at work. The co sleeping campaign ad caught my attention. The ads below blog post are ads against co sleeping. Co sleeping and back to sleep education has changed over my career as a nurse. Co sleeping was encouraged for breastfeeding promotion and attachment at my workplace until around 2004. Then it became a public health focus based on infant mortality research and hospital policies changed. I thought both of these ads which are from the same campaign are very fear based and gruesome. I felt it does not empower the parents as capable people who want to make the best decisions for their child it just leaves them living in an exhausted state of fear and anxiety.
These ads are from Milwaukee’s Safe Sleep Awareness campaign. From my research it seemed there was a large rise in deaths of infants co sleeping in Milwaukee and so they wanted to get aggressive. I find the fear in these ads is not the same approach nurses uses. I did like that they had a number that could be called if they could not afford a crib. The size of the parents home and the expense of a new baby are all very common stresses of new parents. I however would never want to show this ad to a new parent. New parents are typically exhausted, and anxious. This ad seems to play almost on those characteristics? Or is this some sort of dark humor? This I believe possesses more of the behavioral change approach. Before using this ad as a tool to change new parents behaviors could we look at more of an empowerment approach. What types of products could assist parents in safe co sleeping? In many countries families always co sleep because they live in one bedroom. So how do their infants survive? What elements of the co sleeping environment are we wanting to change, what are the largest contributors to suffocation of sleeping infants? Fluffy pillows, pillow top mattresses, alcohol use before sleep. I am excited to learn more about the process of public communication campaigns and to compare the processes and approaches of health communication from my current profession to those who attempt reach millions.