In Review: 2012 National Health Communications, Marketing & Media Conference (Part 1)

This post was originally featured on the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog with my overall thoughts from the recent conference.

I recently got back from attending the 6th National Health Communications, Marketing and Media conference in Atlanta, GA and I must say this was the best one yet. Other than the usual heat in Atlanta, we had another great crowd attend this year. Folks from all different corners of marketing and media for health communications came out to learn best practices in digital strategies, connect with colleagues, network and gather information to take back and inform their work. Special thanks to the CDC, SAMHSAand NPHIC for sponsoring the event.

In my opinion, the conference is essential for public health professionals to make sure they know what the future role of communications will play in the field and how to stay ahead of the curve. As with most conferences I attend, the real gold is found in the hallways where you can connect with like-minded individuals as well as those who can challenge you to become a better health communicator.

My role at this year’s conference was moderating panels and speaking at the new Inspiration Shop. One of the panels that I got to moderate really challenged the way I thought about certain specific populations, how they communicate, and how mobile technologies can be used to connect the disconnected. For example, Iana Simeonov‘s panel talk on her research with California farm workers and promotoras (community health workers). Unfortunately, there are quite a few assumptions in the public health world that underserved communities have no access to technology and social information. Iana showed us that farm workers actually use smartphones quite frequently – yep, Android and iPhones are the tools of choice to stay in touch with family and the information that can be found on the Web. It was a wake up call for professionals who believe handing a bunch of pamphlets and binders are the only way to connect with non-English speaking populations who are otherwise associated with the “digital divide”. Heads up – clear understanding of health information (aka health literacy) is the new divide. Act accordingly.

The Inspiration Shop that I spoke at towards the end of the conference really sealed everything for me. All the speakers had 5 minutes and 10 slides to explain through images/videos, what inspires us. Below is my presentation on what inspires me about the future of public health:

I’m seeing this as a turning point for health communications, where we begin reevaluating what we should be doing better and even more important, the big picture in public health. Integrating a larger scope of activities and initiatives to shape the field will be vital for the future of our communities.

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