Local health department using social media to educate about pandemic

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:20 PM CDT
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The La Crosse County Health Department has been informing the public on COVID-19 for months now.

One tool they use to educate and be transparent is social media.

“As we’re trying to make social media posts, we’re just trying to get information out to the public in a way that makes sense to them,” said Nicole Kragness, a La Crosse County Health Department registered sanitarian.

When it comes to making a Facebook post, the department looks for a credible article to pull key points from in plain language. Throw in a graphic and a call to action to empower the community and it’s time to publish.

The department says one benefit to social media is the ability to get new information out in real time while measuring engagement.

For the team, that engagement isn’t always positive comments.

“I think as people feel frustrated, it’s really easy to use social media as a way to express anger or all of that frustration,” said Maggie Smith, a La Crosse County Health Department health educator.

The four women behind the posts are real people who live in the community and say they understand that frustration.

Additionally, social media isn’t their normal role. They’ve shifted from health educators and sanitarians to media specialists.

“Having to jump into new roles, learn a new routine, do something you’ve never done before—[that] really describes the pandemic,” said Abbie Loos, a La Crosse County Health Department nutrition educator.

Their daily posts aim to be different and not always serious.

“Trying to be creative and finding new avenues of ways to get public health messages across right now is really important rather than seeing the same thing day after day,” Kragness explained.

“Sometimes humor is a way to engage with populations that might not otherwise want to read something from a health department, so those have been a great opportunity to reach new audiences,” Smith added.

Keeping that in mind, the department got comedian Charlie Berens to film a video encouraging face coverings.

Through it all, the message and goal for the posts remains the same.

“As a single person, it may not feel like a huge difference, but if every person followed the guidance and took precaution we could really slow [the spread of COVID-19] down,” Smith said.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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