This was the concluding thought from Dr. Denzil Douglas, after this weeks partner’s conference in support of the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency. I saw it at the end of a press release on CARICOM’s website. To me, this phrase creates the set-up for a perfect Tweet. Yet, when I search CARICOM on Twitter, I come up blank. Try finding a video of recent Caribbean-related public health events on Youtube…there are none. CARICOM does not exits there either. The travesty continues when you visit their homepage. There are no links to social networking sites. For blue box with a F for Facebook; no little birds inviting you to follow them. Not even the option to “Add This” or “Share”.
There was another press release announcing today’s CARICOM conference focusing on increased youth involvement in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Did you know it was going on?. I can’t help but think we are missing a large part of youth population just by how we go about communicating with them. Now, I’m the first to always admit that social media is not the end all be all and that the digital dividedoes exist. However, anecdotally, we know that young Caribbean people access the Internet extensively. It’s well known outside the western developed world that access to the internet is not always tied to a computer…and that in many parts of the world, people are more likely to use their mobile phones to access the internet. Therefore, it’s important to communicate in such a way that allows for quick upload of webpages and to easy browsing. Social media sites are among the most visited on mobile phones. So, why does CARICOM, the premiere agency for regional policy making communicate with it’s public via those channels?
One of the first things I learned in studying communication was that the only message is the message received. Therefore, if CARICOM continued to communicate through the same channels while it’s young population gravitates to something else, not only is there a disconnect; this represents to many missed opportunities. I still support traditional media. But, if we want young people to be engaged, we have to reach them where they hang out; where they exit. This is about expanding the public sphere, of which access to accurate and quality information is vital. So CARICOM, I challenge you to rewrite your own communication history along with that of Caribbean public health history. After all, these tools are not just important for delivering messages about what you are doing. They become vital in also delivering important disease prevention, risk reduction and disaster preparedness messages as well.
So, while we are rewriting Caribbean public health history, wouldn’t it do us good to keep up with technologies that impact health? What do you think is holding CARICOM back? Do they lack the expertise to put together a webpage with information on how to connect with the organization online? Is it a matter of human resources or finances? Should CARICOM have a dedicated social media strategist? Or, is this just a waste of time and money? Share your thoughts below.