The FDA’s attempt to reach Hip Hop youth through Fresh Empire campaign

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that more than 4
million African American, Hispanic and Asian American youth are open to smoking or are already experimenting with cigarettes. To prevent and reduce tobacco use among youth, the FDA started the anti-tobacco campaign called Fresh Empire at the end of 2015 targeted at this so-called hip hop ucm465544generation. You can learn more about the Fresh Empire campaign here and here.
I first saw the an advertisement for the
campaign on BET and had to look it up because it looked so different from other campaigns
that I had seen from the FDA, mainly The Real Cost campaign. The FDA has made a significant commitment to anti-tobacco measures, starting with their Real Cost campaign. There is a story about the campaign of Ad Week here.

These kinds of campaigns are really interesting to me for a variety of reasons. They make me think about the most effective messages and channels to reach sometimes disenfranchised, minority youth in the United States. They also brought to mind something I had been wondering for a very long time: Do these ads air in the Caribbean region? Are young people in the region exposed to these ads? And if so, do they have any effect on Caribbean youth?

I’d love to see some communication- or public health-oriented research on how these types of campaigns are affecting perceptions about smoking among racial/ethnic minority youth, and if those effects extend beyond the US borders. In any event, it’s a cool-looking campaign that I wanted to share.

Tobacco Control and Health Promotion in Jamaica

unnamedEarlier this year I had the opportunity to contribute a case study to the companion website for Health Promotion: Planning and Strategies 3e, written by Green, Tones, Cross and Woodall. I choose to write about the tobacco control health promotion program in Jamaica.


On 15 July 2013 Jamaica’s new Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations entered into force. The strategy to promote acceptance of and compliance with the Regulations focuses on sensitizing internal and external stakeholders at the national and community levels. The health promotion strategy combines various approaches, including communication, entertainment/edutainment, legislation, social marketing and community outreach.

Keywords: communication, social marketing, message framing, health advocacy, health public policy, community empowerment

Read more:

Americas first to eliminate rubella, according to health officials

This week Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health 30rubella3-master675Organization, announced that Rubella has been eradicated in the Americas, the first region in the world to accomplish this feat.

Rubella is a contagious viral disease that can cause multiple birth defects as well as fetal death when contracted by women during pregnancy.

According to an article in the New York Times, “Public health authorities had to review 165 million records and do 1.3 million checks to see if any communities had rubella cases. All recent cases had to be genetically tested at the C.D.C. to confirm that they were caused by known imported strains of the virus, not by quietly circulating domestic ones.”

Although PAHO formally launched the campaign to eliminate Rubella in 2003, the English-speaking  Caribbean’s push towards eradication began several years earlier in 1997.

Led by Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, a Jamaica-based Pan American Health Organization adviser, the campaign began with a pilot program in the Bahamas, targeting adolescents and adults. Prior to this, Rubella vaccination campaigns had focused on pre-teen girls because they were seen as highest risk.

During the mass rubella vaccination campaigns in the Caribbean, “men were told that the rubella component would protect their unborn children, and that the mumps component would prevent mumps complications, which in post-pubescent men include painful swollen testicles and sterility.” According to Dr. Lewis-Bell, this message worked. Men lined up to get the vaccine, and brought along their wives and girlfriends. This example illustrates the power of effective culturally-appropriate communication within of vaccination campaigns.

The announcement was made in conjunction with the United States Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention, Unicef and the United Nations Foundation.

New Caribbean Regional Health Communications Network!

A Regional Health Communications Network has been created to develop, implement, sustain, monitor and evaluate communication responses to priority health issues. This network will also plan for and facilitate the strengthening of health communication capacity at the country and regional level. It will also establish and maintain a community of practice for health communicators to facilitate sharing information and knowledge management. The RHCN is being coordinated by CARPHA and includes the Agency’s Member States. Listen to some of the comments by Member States on the initiative.

Blogging for advocacy in marginalized populations (a reflection)


Working in health communication in a developing nation, where resources are always limited is always a challenge which encourages creativity as the solution. As Communications Officer for the National AIDS Committee (NAC), my role went far beyond ensuring visibility of the organization’s work. I was charged to make an impact on the lives of persons living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) in Jamaica through communication.

The National HIV/STI programme (the parent organization) highlighted the need to use more social media to target PLWHA. At around the same time, I was finishing up the redesign of the NAC website. Although I had opened social media pages for the NAC, I felt we needed to find some mechanism for PLWHA to tell their stories publicly without fear of being stigmatized. This, I felt, could create more understanding and support among Jamaicans while at the same time providing an avenue for HIV advocacy at the policy level. I went ahead and included a section for blogging on the NAC website.

1. Capacity Challenge
That was the easy part. When speaking to the head representative for PLWHA in Jamaica so as to start engaging the population for blogging, he let me know that the community’s capacity to blog was low. We quickly realized that “Blog Workshops” could not only help build capacity to blog, but also to advocate.

2. Funding Challenge
The next question was how would I find funds to have these workshops. I found venues which were free and private through partner agencies. I quickly did proposals to the Pan American health Organization and the Ministry of Health for funding to cover materials and food. We received enough funds for low budget workshops.

The workshop for PLWHA was carried out and was a success resulting in over 15 first entries on the NAC website and weekly entries to follow.

3. Another Capacity Challenge
We expanded the concept to other vulnerable populations and had another blog workshop with HIV positive Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). At this workshop I quickly discovered that there was a literacy challenge among some of the men recruited. Needless to say, literacy is a basic requirement of a blogger.

Discussing it privately with the head of the organization for Gays and Lesbians in Jamaica, we decided to approach it by using teams to tell stories. Those that we unable to write, told their stories to their teammate, who would then write it for them. Those without computers or internet gave me their blogs hand written, and I typed and uploaded the blogs on their behalf.

I cannot take credit for always having the right answer for every challenge, but what I have learned through this experience was the value of really listening to those who you are trying to serve. This way, you are assured greater success in any intervention.