Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online, Part 4

August 1, 2011

We have arrived at National Immunization Month and many of us health-focused Twitter colleagues have committed ourselves to support this campaign by tapping the promise of social media. We have entitled it the #HCSMVAC Project, which loosely translates into Health Care Social Media Vaccine Project. Our group decided to focus on Kansas City, MO given its historically low vaccine rates and to make the project more manageable. On the whole, the diversity of activities set for August will allow us to shine a brighter light on the need for vaccinations. Below is a summary of the tasks we are pursuing and we hope they serve as inspiration for others to adopt and in generating new ideas. Included in this list are suggestions to avoid the hurdles we encountered.

We began by launching a weekly chat on Saturdays at 8am PT on Twitter, entitled #HCSMVAC as our hashtag. People across the country and all over the world began participating, contributing ideas, contacts, and asking all he right questions. These contributions have been enormously helpful in shaping this project. Taking up most of he heavy lifting have been Erica Olenski and Nate Osit, serving as moderators and encouragers.

Web Presence
Nate Osit put us on the map with a web site, where our links to resources are posted to the public. These initiatives include posters that can be circulated in Kansas City, featuring our website link to a Google Map of local immunization clinics. The site will soon feature our FAQs, tackling some of the more salient issues raised in the immunization conversation (e.g. no association between autism and vaccines, etc.) and our videos.

In preparing three videos for this project, I drew from Dr. April Foreman’s inspiring question: “Imagine a World Without Vaccines.” The videos will be featured on YouTube and on my Twitpic page here:

A World Without Vaccines



Links to these videos will appear on our Facebook page too. Everyone is encouraged to tweet and blog referencing the videos. In addition, there are several noteworthy and humorous approaches to immunization awareness that we applaud and will re-link to as well (e.g. Immunize Yo!).

Many group members have their own perspective and stories to tell regarding the importance of immunization and they are sharing their accounts. Mike Biovin, pharmacist, medical writer and parent, spoke from the heart regarding his daughter’s autism and why vaccinating her is important. Given the fear that some parents have regarding vaccines and their lack of knowledge about there being no connection to immunizations, Mike’s story is all the more powerful. Likewise, related health care stakeholders, such as Dr. April Foreman are using their sites to blog about vaccine awareness, raising their community’s consciousness.

In preparation for this month’s activities, we developed an FAQ sheet and a tweet sheet from which our members could harvest tweetable messages. We created a Dropbox folder to allow our group to download the resources to their computer and pull tweets for their own use. These messages vary from citing statistics to promoting specific locations where vaccines may be obtained.

Tweet samples
Want to protect your kids from infectious disease? Next stop: the nearest clinic. Find yours in Kansas City http://bit.ly/iNnLJU

Which Missouri city will be the most protected by immunizations? It’s
up to you. Vaccine locations http://bit.ly/iO4v8F #hcsmvac

Diptheria, Tetanus & Pertussis: What You Need To Know http://1.usa.gov/lnZdMX National Immunization Awareness Month #hcsmvac

Posters, Temporary Tattoos and Stickers
As mentioned above, our web site features posters that bear a link to the Google map of vaccine locations in Kansas City. In addition, they bear QR codes that can be read with smartphones that also link to the Google map. We started getting creative and decided to try to adapt the QR codes for temporary tattoos, as Mike Smith showcases here. That is when when we had bitten off more than we could chew. There were several glitches: they printed out too small and weren’t easily read. Accordingly, given how expensive and sensitive the medium is (working with temporary tattoo paper is not fun), we advise opting for a different route: print up the QR codes large enough to be readable stickers. It is easier to find a sticker vendor, cheaper to produce, and to generate a size that can be read, which is about 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches. The graphic below should give you a sense of what works.

Non-Traditional Tactics
While not as successful as the ideas above, Lisa Fields and myself have been testing the waters in trying to prod corporations to jump in with us. My hopes for a “Scoops for Shots” campaign have not convinced Baskin & Robbins to assist, though Lisa may have obtained a Chik-Fil-A contact in Kansas City to do a meal discount promotion for vaccinations. Likewise, our appeals to Pampers fell on deaf ears notwithstanding its “1 Pack, 1 Vaccine” program for UNICEF.

We encourage other creative and fun ideas, such as creating haikus and poems about immunizing, creating personal art that articulates your reasons for getting vaccinated, sharing videos of real stories, like Shea O’Machel’s story.

Community Outreach and Traditional Media
Coincidentally, the Association of American Family Physicians held its conference in Kansas City, MO last week, so we were hoping to spread the temporary tattoos among some of our contacts for wider circulation. The technical debacle in reading the tattoos prevented this from going forward, but we hope to pass along our pdf file of the codes so that stickers can be printed by local doctors, nurses, and other providers. Meanwhile, our team has been reaching out to groups and doctors in the KC area, offering our posters, QR code, videos, etc. in the hope of expanding our network reach. While letters have also been written to local KC newspapers, we have not received any receptivity. We continue to explore other contacts, as Dr. Foreman is pursuing circles within church ministries.

That’s a lot of activity from a purely volunteer group that sprang from Twitter. I can only imagine what formalized institutions with grander resources at its disposal can do. My suspicion is if we ever teamed up, our campaign would really go viral.

Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online, Part 3

July 23, 2011

National Immunization Month is almost upon us (coming in August), and in anticipation, some of us Twitter health fans have decided to use this medium and other social media tricks to support this effort.  For those who have not been keeping pace with the progress of this project, part 1 and part 2 are in the archive of this blog. To wrap up what has been happening this month, allow this post to bring everyone p to speed.

Our steadfast volunteer, April Foreman (@DocForeman), has been shaking the trees for leads in the ministry community in Kansas City for contacts who would be willing to spread greater awareness regarding immunization health and vaccine locales among their faithful.  Meanwhile, Mike Boivin (@CommPharm), posted his own poignant account of why he knows vaccines don’t cause autism, writing as a parent of a child with autism. Read this very powerful essay here. During the course of several chats, the topic of using temporary tattoos to spread the word on vaccine clinic locations became a popular topic. Mike Smith (@rybolov) offered to create a pdf of our QR code-Google map that features the vaccine locations we researched for Kansas City, MO. He then provided a link to a place that sells temporary tattoo paper here. So, I have ordered the paper and await delivery. I will print out the pdf filled with our QR codes and try to get the tattoo sheets to Heather Paladine (@paladineh) who is attending the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Conference this coming week in …wait for it: Kansas City! Nate Osit (@NateOsit) thinks we can track the number of times the URL in the QR code is read by using bit.ly. So, as part of our experiment, I will be tracking the QR URL on bit.ly just to see how many are clicked. This is such a whimsical idea that if this takes root, I can see all manner of applications for health awareness promotion.

Speaking of which, Heather Paladine  and Mike Boivin noted that what is most effective in targeting physicians is having ready-made information packets to give to parents and encouraging prenatal order sets with flu shots that physicians can use.  Plus, as Mike also noted providing OB/GYNs with the info on why pregnancy vaccines are a good idea is worthwhile. Here’s an article detailing the CDC’s recommendations on vaccines given during pregnancy, particularly H1N1 flu shot for expectant mothers.

Stay tuned as this project continues to gather steam and interest, inoculating the world from harm.

Taking A Shot At Immunizations Online, Part 2

June 23, 2011

Within weeks of forming a tight-knit group of like-minded health care supporters on Twitter, the momentum for the #HCSMvac project has taken off.  In short, the project is designed to raise immunization rates in Kansas City, MO, a place which has historically achieved low vaccination rates and reflects a diverse populace. To see our earliest steps in putting an action plan together, read my prior post.

Since the first month of organizing, lots of good ideas and good will have expanded the dimensions and reach of the project. April Foreman, M.D. (@DocForeman) is exploring church-based contacts for awareness outreach through the ministerial alliance in Kansas City and her own personal contacts, as her father is a Methodist minister.  Our fellow Twitter maven, Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom) began exploring her Twitter connections to Kansas City “health care movers and shakers.” Lisa also started tweeting to Ben & Jerry’s and Pampers to test the waters for corporate support.

Meanwhile, Nate Osit (@NateOsit)  compiled more vaccine locations with help from the rest of the group that Chris Hall (@hallicious) then used to build a Google map. At a glance, this vaccine map allows viewers to locate the nearest immunization site. Better yet, Chris went beyond the call of duty to create a QR code linked to the map. What this did was allow us to print a scanable code on our vaccine awareness posters that people could scan with their smartphones to find the nearest vaccine location based on their geo-location. That technological feat deserves an award all by itself.

Not leaving any stone unturned, Mark Dimor (@MarksPhone) has been contacting radio stations and is pursuing TV contacts to wider awareness impact apart from social media. He has recommended more tactical assignments, such as a FAQ section for our #HCSMvac website. Along the same lines, I drafted some template letters for our outreach (e.g. Letter to the Editor), while Chris created our initial poster that spawned several other versions targeting specific groups. During a recent Saturday morning #HCSMvac chat, April asked, “What would the world be like without vaccines?” That inspired two promotional videos to be posted on our #HCSMvac site and Twitter-references when the campaign goes full-throttle in August. April has decided to answer her own question on a world without vaccines through a diary from which she’ll blog about come August.

August is National Awareness Month

Ever diligent about practicality, Nate has stressed the need for pursuing local Kansas City contact development to assist with passing out our posters and spreading the word.  He already has a field trip planned to allow for some local canvassing in Kansas City. (Special shout out to Nate: he has been an incredible organizer and archivist of material and technological guru in creating a web presence for the team.)

If you haven’t figured it out already, there are quite a few very dedicated individuals who are tinkering with social media and informal collaboration just for the thrill of seeing what can happen. Ideally, immunization rates get a nice boost in Kansas City, and elsewhere, from this modest gesture. What has struck me as a more profound result is that we have all been humbled by the capacity to do something larger than ourselves. And to think it started with a tweet.

Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online

May 30, 2011

The Health Care Communications & Social Media group on Twitter tends to generate some interesting side projects and collaborations. A few weeks ago, during our#HCSM chat, I ventured that we as group ought to take a project on that all of us could contribute to with a public health focus. This article will briefly document that process and summarize the aims of the effort to date. Regular installments will follow on our progress. If we succeed in some small way, our efforts may serve as a model for others to jump in and launch their own public health campaigns.

Tweet Suggesting Public Health Project

Within seconds of my initial tweet, Dr. April Foreman (@DocForeman) and I began bantering ideas to come up with an Immunization Project.

Twitter Collaboration

Several other #HCSM colleagues contributed to shape the effort, including Nate Osit (@NateOsit)  in providing invaluable technical assistance and an immediate social media presence for the newly formed #hcsmvac group. Erica Olenski (@TheGr8Chalupa) began suggesting cities to consider, as did Shalama Jackson (@shalamajackson), and Dr. Aimee Roundtree (@akroundtree) noted made her pitch for Kansas City, MO.

Tweet on Kansas City and Low Immunization Rates

We ultimately conducted a Twitter poll vote, inviting everyone from the larger #hcsm community on Twitter to help us select among the nominated candidates. Ultimately, Kansas City was determined our chosen city to focus on.

Twiter Poll Showing Kansas City, MO as the Winner

A series of Twitter conversations followed, itemizing all the tasks to be undertaken, from amassing statistics on vaccines to figuring out where immunizations were being conducted in Kansas City. From these conversations, a mighty flow of emails came forth, with everyone volunteering to contribute in some manner. Nate Osit, serving as resident cheerleader and technical guru, launched a #hcsmvac Twitter account (@hcsmvac), About.me page,  and a Dropbox area for the group to share documents. Information on the Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services, CDC links, sample tweet messages, and many other data resources flooded in. A chat among interested folks on this project took place on May 28th, with participants sketching out tasks to be done. The focus presently is to obtain locations in the city to target and to reach out to those locales so we can find out all the details to share on Twitter (and beyond in blogs, Letters to the Editor, etc.). Meanwhile, contacting related stakeholders online involved with public health and immunology is on the group’s radar.

Ultimately, this project is to be launched in August, the corresponding health observance time for National Immunization Month. As for determining impact of this project, there are a couple of measurements that exist to help us out. To the extent that we use URL shorteners in our messages that track click volume, as with bit.ly or ow.ly, we can monitor how far and wide our #hcsmvac posts are permeating the social media stream. Secondly, we can engage with the professional contacts at various immunization clinics that we promote to see if any traction was observed from our tweets (e.g. did anyone report hearing about the availability of vaccines through Twitter?). Furthermore, we will gauge whether flu spikes are lower this year for the city of Kansas City by comparing flu trends, available at Google FluTrends. While this isn’t the most scientific measure of impact, it will give us an idea if any of our efforts extended beyond the cyber echo chamber.  As far as the #hcsmvac group is concerned, it is worth a shot.

If you’d like more information on how to get involved, go to #hcsmvac Project and drop an email,  visit @hcsmvac on Twitter, or join our Saturday morning chats at 8am PT / 11am ET.

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