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Junior Fellows “Get Their Public Health Messages Out” at Mini-Conference

On April 9, 2013, NYAM’s Office of School Health Programs (OSHP) Junior Fellows Program partnered with the Ad Council to present its first-ever Mini-Conference, “Getting the Message Out.” The Mini-Conference was sponsored by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

“Today’s Mini-Conference will give Junior Fellows the opportunity to learn about how messages in the field of public health are designed and used to reach people with information to promote health and prevent illness or injury,” said Joanne De Simone Eichel, Director of NYAM’s Office of School Health Programs, in her introductory remarks.

Ms. Eichel also acknowledged special guest Mr. John Damonti, President of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, whose guidance and financial support made the event possible. Mr. Damonti is a NYAM Trustee, Fellow, OSHP Advisory Committee member, and steadfast supporter of the Junior Fellows Program since its beginning.

NYAM President Jo Ivey Boufford, MD spoke to the students about prevention, which is one of NYAM’s priority areas. Prevention can be approached in two ways, Dr. Boufford said:  by “making the healthy choice the easy choice” in communities, and by helping people understand and choose healthy behaviors. She emphasized the important role young people can play in influencing their parents, schools, and communities to make healthy changes.

“Kids have power in making change for prevention,” Dr. Boufford said.

Dr. Boufford then introduced the presenters, Megan Sigesmund, Campaign Director at the Ad Council, and Hannah Blatt, Campaign Manager at the Ad Council. Ms. Sigesmund and Ms. Blatt introduced the concept of “social marketing”—selling an idea that will save or improve a life, or make a person feel good about enhancing someone else’s life. They also provided an overview of the Ad Council’s work and how each Public Service Announcement (PSA), such as their new texting and driving campaign, is developed over a period of 9-12 months, from the research and development stage to the public launch.

The groups of Junior Fellows from each school were then assigned various public health issues such as obesity, asthma, hunger and bullying and asked to work together to create an outline of their own PSA.  They identified their campaign’s main message, target audience and methods they would use to conduct background research for their campaign. The dynamic presentations that the students prepared showed an impressive grasp of the public health issues. The Junior Fellows from MS 88, whose issue was asthma, performed a skit and presented the campaign tagline “I Have Asthma but Asthma Doesn’t Have Me.” The students from IS 187, who were assigned the topic of bullying prevention, envisioned a campaign targeting parents with the tagline “Stop the Hate—Tell Your Kids the Difference They Can Make.” After the Junior Fellows’ presentations, the Ad Council presented its PSAs on the same topics that had been assigned to the students. Many of these professional PSAs had themes and messages similar to what the students had come up with on their own. 

Mr. Damonti of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, who also serves on the Board of the Ad Council and its public issues advisory board, noted that the idea for the Mini-Conference arose from the desire to design an interactive, meaningful program for the Junior Fellows.

“I think it’s really important to get to the issues—public health issues,” Mr. Damonti said. “Issues like texting and driving aren’t medical issues, but public health issues that need a public health approach.”

He added, “All the aspects of creating a campaign—concept, targeted messaging, potential behavior changes—are a great opportunity for students at this age to engage in.”

Melissa Mendelson, Project Director for The Junior Fellows Program, provided the closing remarks and thanked everyone for participating in this special event.  Students reported being inspired by learning more about ways to effectively communicate important health messages to the public.

The Junior Fellows Program, a partnership between NYAM’s Office of School Health Programs, the NYAM Library, and several New York City academic medical centers, introduces students to current issues in public health, science, medicine, and research and engages them in conducting secondary research in these areas throughout the school year. The Junior Fellows Class of 2013 will be presenting their individual research projects at the annual Research Poster Session and Culmination Ceremony at NYAM on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.

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Posted on April 22, 2013

Gina Ravosa
Director of Marketing & Communications
The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
(212) 822-7285


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