Social Media - A Credible Way to Reach Priority Groups
Building CASTLEs in Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant Regions
From the lack of transportation, to language and trust issues, people in Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant public health regions named dozens of barriers that prevented them from screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. Residents of these communities, identified as never- or under-screened, include recent immigrants, Aboriginal peoples, those with language or literacy issues, people with disabilities and older people. They live in low-income housing communities and may be dealing with past trauma or cultural issues, such as the need for female accompaniment to appointments. Together with fear of the results, these barriers translate into screening participation rates well below Cancer Care Ontario targets. Social media is potentially a way to raise awareness about screening in these groups.
Faye Parascandalo, the regional lead for the CASTLE (Creating Access to Screening and Training in the Living Environment) project at the City of Hamilton Public Health Services, works with her team to remove these barriers and increase cancer screening participation among groups at higher risk of mortality from preventable cancers, due to the inequities they face.
The CASTLE project is designed to break down barriers, build structural and supportive pathways, and provide access to screening to help reduce disparities in cancer screening. It includes a range of multi-sectoral partners, including researchers at McMaster and Brock Universities, and uses peer-to-peer mentorship and community training, communication and social media. The project's Community Health Brokers work with individuals to create tailored solutions to logistical, structural, systematic and individual barriers to screening. Social media factors in with focused cancer screening messages developed specifically for the under/never screened populations and distributed through interactive website messaging, Facebook, Twitter and a blog. "Small media" channels include posters and videos.
While developing a funding proposal for the program, Faye learned about the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) Social Media Toolkit, through a weekly e-mail from the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT). The kit provided a comprehensive process to develop, implement and evaluate a social media plan, which became an instrumental part of their successful proposal. Its academic references helped validate the use of social media in health promotion campaigns. "We needed to be sure that spending a good portion of our budget on social media was going to be worthwhile. Having a credible, well-researched resource helped us make that leap," says Faye. The examples, work pages and templates proved invaluable in planning the project, in a way that was sustainable and transferable.
Together with other useful resources she found on the NCCMT website, Faye highly recommends the CDC toolkit, a tool "so comprehensive, it helps organizations consider all aspects of social media, whether they are experts or new to the options available."