Association of Ohio Health Commissioners partners with CPH Graduate Student for Social Media Campaign
In Fall 2020 the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners (AOHC), which represents Ohio’s 113 county and city health commissioners, reached out to Kent State’s College of Public Health with a problem: How do local health departments build trust with their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Local health departments have served a more visible role during the pandemic, sometimes enforcing penalties on businesses who don’t comply with COVID-19 measures. Trust between citizens and health departments is vital for safety during a health emergency.
AOHC was quickly connected to Joud Roufael, a CPH graduate student pursuing a Doctorate in Public Health. Roufael knew a social media campaign would be best, given the circumstances.
Roufael has valuable skills in media production. He currently produces the Positive Health Podcast, a College of Public Health podcast aimed to provide public health literacy through a positive lens.
Roufael began working on a campaign that would connect with his intended audiences. Based on Framing Theory, he divided target message sentiments into five groups, and wrote messages for each.
“Our Public Health Departments and staff are taking on a public health crisis of epic scope. Let us give them our respect and support,” read one post.
He also designed a graphic to pair with each message, and designed templates for AOHC to continue using in the future.
“Being at CPH has introduced me to a lot of projects where I was able to give back to the community. I think being in a sudden state of pandemic, especially with the amount of misinformation and health illiteracy going out, I wanted to make an impact through what I’m doing to better inform our communities of health departments’ efforts. I’ve been passionate about this topic in discussions with my friends, family, and students, so I was grateful to be given this opportunity to educate people and make it clear what we do in Public Health.” Roufael said.
Interactions with posts have increased since the start of the campaign, he said.
“Health departments have been somewhat beleaguered by some community members who object to some of the strong public health measures we’ve had to take. It’s time to put some positive messaging out about what health departments do, and how they protect communities,” said Matthew Stefanak, former Mahoning County Health Commissioner and CPH ambassador.
Joud Roufael plans to use lessons learned from this project for his dissertation work, and anticipates a committee review possibly in the summer.