Transcript of Get Ready Report podcast Episode 9:
Preparedness Across the Nation: Idaho Public Health Association helps residents get ready

Interview with Mary Ann Reuter, executive director of the Idaho Public Health Association.

Your organization, Idaho Public Health Association, is really active in Get Ready. What are some of the activities that your association has implemented to get involved in (APHA’s) Get Ready campaign?

We use our Web site as an information portal for a lot of different public health messages. And one of the things we do is invite other health organizations, including the state health districts and public health departments as well as other nonprofit health organizations, to use our Web site as a way to get their information out too. So, whenever we have a campaign kind of like the Get Ready campaign, we ask other community partners to participate in the campaign through our Web site. So they might have an event or activity planned during preparedness month or with flu season coming or some activities at their clinics so we invite them to post their information on our Web site as well as the information we have about the American Public Health Association campaign and the really awesome free materials that are available to individuals as well as other health organizations to use.

What does the Idaho Public Health Association hope to achieve with the campaign? Like you’ve said earlier, you wanted to get the word out abut APHA and IPHA and preparedness with Get Ready. Are there any specific plans or goals that you have with the Get Ready campaign?

As a small Affiliate and one that hasn’t had a huge presence in the community just because we were volunteer driven and low staff and kind of limited in what we have to offer, we really want to let the community and other health professionals know that we have kind of more capability than we used to have, that we’ve got a Web site that can get messages out and want to kind of be known as an information source and at the same time we appreciate, you know, the information that comes from APHA because it’s science-based, it’s good, accurate information that we don’t have to create ourselves. To be known, I guess, as a source of really reliable, helpful information for the public and other health professionals.

And also with spreading information, do you, now you’ve said you’ve used your Web site a lot, are there any other technological advances that you use, like now social media’s really popular, have you all gotten into that yet with twittering or blogging or anything?

No, were just, we’re really looking at that this summer and we’re actually hoping to rally some help of public health students and health science students at our two universities to really help us with the social networking aspect. In fact their really into it so were hoping to have our own kind of core of students that’ll manage a Facebook page for us and do some of the Twitter…Twittering so that as we do these campaigns we can get out to a broader audience.

It definitely benefits students to get involved. How has this initiative benefited your association?

It’s been a nice kind of rallying point, we actually had a really neat campaign last fall with the (Get Ready) Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign because we used it as a way to get a little media attention and a reason to send out an e-mail message to all of our contacts in our database, which is members and people we’d like to be our members. We also had an event that we did at an Albertsons store. Albertsons is a grocery food chain and a pharmacy chain in the state of Idaho, and so at one of the locations we were invited to come there before the daylight saving time and put up a display, hand out materials. They did the printing for us of all the materials that are available on the APHA Web site. So we had a very colorful display, we did a raffle for the giveaway of the family stockpile basket that the grocery store had provided for us. So that was really kind of neat, and you know, it was just a nice way to meet people in the community and of course the timing is great to sort of have an excuse to make a news story out of it, daylight savings time. Because, you know, I used to work in the media and it’s always kind of a stretch — like what’s the news story angle going to be this year? Well, we kind of provided it, so that was good.

Speaking on collaborative opportunities — because you just said you did things with the grocery store, they’re not required of APHA’s partners in the campaigns. Aside from the media and getting a news story — because that is a good way to get your word out — are there any other reasons that you feel Idaho Public health Association should do collaborative efforts?

Well that particular event was just a great tie-in and of course Albertsons is a great community sponsor of a lot of events, so we were sort of hoping it would be an ongoing activity that we could offer, and you know that they might find other public health messages that they’d like to be involved with. So it’s just kind of a beginning of a relationship for us with them and it was really great, it was a lot of fun, and although we haven’t yet expanded it to all the stores in the state we think there are some opportunities to, you know, little by little, offer it with a few more stores each year. And the other partner with us on that activity was the Central District Health Department, which is one of seven district health departments in Idaho. They’re the ones that are actually out there delivering sort of the promotion message and have health clinics available for folks. And so they were also there with us answering questions about pandemic flu, or flu shots and being prepared as a family for the possibility of being home for a week or more with a flu epidemic.

This also may help other associations that may be listening to this podcast, because another really good thing is how do you get your relationship with these partners to emerge, how do they come about and how do you get them to become interested and bring their efforts to the Get Ready campaign as well?

The grocery store connection was just kind of a natural. I mean, they were very interested in donating the items for the family stockpile Kit and they were interested in having their store customers having the opportunity to win the raffle, win the kit. Which was worth about $100. That was kind of a neat thing. And it really tied in with their marketing too, so that people were thinking about the kind of items that they would need to purchase. We actually handed out the grocery list of items they should buy, you know, canned goods, water, if you have a flashlight, don’t forget the pet food, that sort of message. We also were serving little pandemic peanut butter sandwiches and rice cakes and that was a big draw for the kids. So they could see the benefit for them for helping promote this public health message. That was a real natural fit and of course the health district was happy to be a part of it as well.

And if you could compile it into a list, what would you say the Idaho Public Health Association does to promote the Get Ready message?

We have an ongoing promotion on our Web site so that’s always available. It’s also kind of in the background. Certainly when the swine flu epidemic news hit we were quick to add information on our Web site that had that Get Ready message of, you know, family preparedness, here’s what you can do. Cause people feel like there’s nothing they can do, and they’re in danger and you know it’s really such a big thing for them to grapple with. But the message is, there really are things that you as a person or as a family can do to be prepared and here’s some really good information. Here’s some really good information to share with your children, information maybe to share with your neighbors, your schools, at work and just kind of keep it in perspective. So, I think that having ready information that people can use is really important.

Since you touched on the swine flu, which just emerged, what did your organization do as a Get Ready partner do to ensure your community remained informed? Every couple of days, would you put out an update?

Yeah, we did. We actually…our kind of immediate partner with the state Department of Health and Welfare, they send us their information and they actually have a swine flu Web page where they’re, you know, putting information up daily about, you know, the number of people in which counties in the state are being monitored for the disease, if anyone’s actually died etc., etc. They’ve done that for West Nile virus and some other public health kind of emergencies that people are very very interested in. So we get their information, we get the information from (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) we get information from APHA and we were putting up new news stories probably every other day.

Well that’s great. And also, you also talked about (Get Ready) Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks initiative earlier, and I remember you had a press release in October. Why do you feel this particular initiative is so important for your community?

Well I think it’s like a… I don’t want to say it like a gadget almost. But it’s sort of in the fall, in particular, when you set the clocks back it’s a reminder that you know winter’s coming on and flu season is coming on. And you know it might feel a little early to be thinking about it but it really isn’t particularly with that aspect of family preparedness making sure you have a stockpile at home in case your sick and you know, you can’t go out for a week, or more to have at least a seven day supply of food, nonperishable food, items available. So it’s like a, kind of trigger almost like when you think about the changing of the seasons, setting your clock back — think about being prepared for what might come up during flu season.

So from the point where you began to engage in Get Ready do you notice a change in the community? Has there been any feedback from community members and fellow health professionals about your work in the get ready campaign? And what are they saying?

Well, you know, we reach out to a few more groups every time we do this. And so initially, it’s just kind of through the in-store promotion and through our Web site to the public. This year we’re actually looking at sending out materials to the school district and to the neighborhood associations, you know getting to a more personal level with the message for schools and school children and for the neighborhood groups. And I think what we will see is this sort of acknowledgement of “oh, gosh, so that’s what public health is!” or “that’s what the Idaho Public Health Association is about.” You know, I think it helps us gain some name recognition.

Have you received any feedback at all? As far as your community members and public health professionals?

Just information from our members and our prospects saying, “oh, gosh, thanks for the information” or “thanks for the reminder,” or “boy, I didn’t realize I could go to the APHA Web site and you know, download a logo or download all these free materials” and “thanks for the reminder, I wasn’t really thinking about that.” We kind of want to be an information portal — let people know that we know where you can let people know information about different public health topics and preparedness is certainly one of them.

Would you say that the feedback you have been getting as far as the acknowledgement of the materials that are available, do you feel that that is in line with your goals thus far?

Definitely, definitely. I mean anything we can do, you know, as a small Affiliate to really facilitate other groups getting information out, other groups having information available if they’re a public health district and they’re seeing individuals clients in their clinics you know to be able to say “oh you could go to the IPHA Web site or the APHA Web site and get the information you need on this topic. And oh, by the way, here’s something we printed out.” You know, kind of point of contact when people are asking about something they can go to the Web site and get the information they need right then and there.

To learn more about APHA’s Get Ready campaign, visit www.getreadyforflu.org

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