This post was written by Perrie Briskin.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2012 meeting of the North Carolina chapter for the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
The meeting brought together passionate health educators from across the great Tar Heel State. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Navigating the Changing Landscape: Health Educators Respond to the Changing NC Population.” However, many presenters chose to look beyond NC, and made the case for how health education can benefit from a broader national and global context.
Here are some highlights from this year’s meeting:
- Don’t shy away from social media. No matter how big or small your organization is, pick a social media channel that best fits your audience and goals.
- Social isolation impacts older adults. More than one presenter talked about America’s rising senior population in conjunction with the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Bowling Alone suggests that since 1950, Americans have disengaged from political and civic life, leading to a detached relationship with any kind of local community. This isolation, and the factors driving it, is important to keep in mind when addressing the needs of America’s senior population.
- Use data at the local level. Once upon a time, data was only for large, national, and far-reaching organizations. Not anymore. Websites like Data.gov and County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have made local county public health data available for free online. Though just because it’s available doesn’t mean everyone is ready to use it. Certain communities still face the challenge of convincing other public officials to let data drive certain initiatives. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers a helpful guide to promoting an understanding of the social determinants of health.
- In order to help North Carolina, you need to leave it. The meeting closed with an impassioned talk by LaHoma Smith Romocki, professor at North Carolina Central University, advocating the benefits of international travel. Traveling to other parts of the world, especially to those that are less fortunate, can help public health educators better face the challenges here at home. It was an apt way to close a meeting that consistently asked its participants to look beyond their local community at the larger public health picture.