Getting Your Community Interested

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Once you have determined who your audience is and what your goals are, it's time to implement the initiative! But how do you get the members of your community to take an interest in their family health history? The questions below will help you sort that out.

How is information disseminated in your community?

It is important to understand how information travels in your community so that you have the best opportunity to reach your desired audience. It will help you plan out how best to distribute the information, and resources will not be wasted once you know what types of projects work. If you introduce the ideas of family health history in a format that the community is receptive to, you can lessen the obstacles of misinterpretation or suspicion of materials.

What types of posters/books/flyers would people be most likely to display in their homes and businesses?

It is important to understand what types of information people feel comfortable displaying in their homes and offices so that materials such as flyers and posters can be sensitive to those factors. Presenting images and materials that are more acceptable to your community, and specific to your community, will invite people to pick up and display those resources more often than if you were to use standard supplies from outside communities. One way to prevent disinterest or negative reaction to materials is to get feedback from a few members of your community before distribution. These new perspectives can help shape the materials to fit your community.

What is a community liaison?

Community liaisons are the link between your message and the community at large. A community liaison can be anyone who is involved with the community and delivers valuable information. Social workers, teachers, church members and health care workers are all people who can be considered community liaisons because they go out into or are a part of the neighborhoods and are familiar, trusted people.

What events are most popular in your community?

Popular community events can be a good starting point to build interest in collecting family health history. These events provide an opportunity for large numbers of people in the community to be approached and informed about the importance of knowing their family health history. This can also help with recruitment of community liaisons to be part of your mission. A few examples of events that you may be able to participate in are community festivals, health fairs, and parades. Neighborhood and city agencies such as the police department or firehouse as well as local newspapers should be reliable places to find out how to participate in community events with large attendance.

Is there a popular or respected individual that would be a spokesperson for your cause?

Connecting the family health history initiative with a known person of the community will make the idea less foreign, and people may take a greater interest. It is important to put a familiar face with a new idea to help ease any anxiety or apprehension. Having this person share a small part of his/her personal family history and describe what actions were taken (such as health screens or change in diet) can help motivate other community members. Church leaders, politicians, and local groups are integral to the community and can spread the message about family history through word of mouth or by having events/postings for the public.

What are the roles of churches and community centers in your community?

If churches and/or community centers play a large role in your community, they can become partners in promoting family health history collection. These places can be used to either distribute information (through flyers or pamphlets) or to host events geared toward family health history collection. By partnering with a church or community center, your network of community members and the number of community liaisons will grow.

How could your community partner with schools to promote Family Health History?

By engaging groups throughout the community, it will be easier to incorporate more people into the family health history initiatives. Partnering with area schools allows for the collection of family health history to be introduced as a class assignment and then develop into a family project later. The school setting provides an audience (students) and helpers (staff and teachers) to get the ideas of family health history incorporated into the community. Setting up presentations for history or science classes is one way of incorporating family health history into the school curriculum. Involving the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in events or workshops is another way of reaching the whole family unit through local schools.

Do people view clinics and/or primary care doctors as useful sources for health information?

Recognizing the dynamic between the members of your community and their health care providers is crucial to understanding how family health history will be incorporated into a person's own medical history. For people to be comfortable sharing their family health history with a clinic/heath provider, people must hold a positive view of these professionals. One way to build a relationship between the community and local health care providers is to have doctors and clinic workers involved in developing the community's interest either at community events or during office visits. Health care providers should be seen as members of the community that have a vested interest in the community's well being.

What is the best way to advertise?

When advertising, it is important to try to have a mix of direct and indirect communication with your audience. Phone calls, community liaisons, and "walkabouts" (neighborhood walks) are direct methods for engaging community members on an individual level. These methods enable people to put a face with the message of family health history and give the initiative a personalized feel. Indirect communication allows for more people to be reached in a short time. Newspaper ads, mailings, radio and TV spots are good ways to reach many members of your community. It is important to understand how information is spread throughout your community to know which method would reach the most people.

What are the best ways to keep information alive and circulating in the community?

Making sure the interest and momentum of putting together family health histories does not fade is critical for keeping the initiative going. Family health history can be kept current in your community through monthly bulletins, workshops, and participation in community events. It is important to demonstrate that the collection of family information is an ongoing endeavor.

How do you keep participants engaged in the Family Health History Initiative?

Keeping participants engaged in the idea of family health history is vital to the initiative so that people do not abandon the idea of family health history once the tool is used. By keeping past participants informed of the progression of the initiative at the local level and beyond, though their specific duty to the project maybe over, these participants will still be a part of the process. This type of inclusion will better promote the participants' engagement. People can be kept informed through mailings or informal reunions. The more informed past participants are, the more willing they will be to stay involved. Another method is to have past participants become new leaders in promoting the family health history initiative. Not only will these participants feel involved, but they can also (to a certain extent) have an ownership over the progress they see in their community.