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From Text Messages to "The Colbert Report": Connecting with Young People

January 14, 2010
friends outside As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, today is dedicated to the priority group of young adults. Young adults comprise the age group of 19–24 years old and are often a difficult audience to persuade to receive a H1N1 vaccination. People between the ages of six months to 24 years are among the target groups for receiving the vaccine.

Many young adults and college students believe they are invincible and do not need to worry about something such as H1N1. Unfortunately, this is one of the priority groups that is most likely to spread H1N1 to each other. Between the interactions and closeness in the classrooms, college dorms, locker rooms, group outings, and cafeterias, the probability of H1N1 spreading in a college or school is high. In addition, unlike older adults who may have previously been exposed to a similar virus, college-age students have not acquired immunity to H1N1.

Despite vaccination opposition from this priority group, young adults are easy to connect with online through the use of social media platforms.

Now, social networking sites are exactly where public health professionals are honing in, in an attempt to encourage young adults to get vaccinated against H1N1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has taken a step to reach young adults and others through the use of the Facebook Web page, “Fight the H1N1 Flu”.

Story from the Field: Bringing Vaccine to Students

Connecting with students through the Internet is one way to reach out, but reaching them in-person can have excellent results. At the Howard County Health Department in Maryland, the health department decided to take a proactive approach and bring the H1N1 vaccination clinic to a college campus, instead of waiting for college students to come to them. The health department hosted a clinic at the Howard County Community College, which has 7,000 enrolled students.

To notify students of this clinic, the health department worked with the college and created Web pages on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, mass e-mails and text messages were sent to students to inform them of the clinic. The collaboration between the health department and the college proved to be a success—with about 2,500 college students vaccinated during a two-day clinic at the college.

HHS Secretary Helping to Spread the Word

Kathleen Sebelius is doing her part to spread the message about the importance of getting the H1N1 vaccine at an event at Hunter College in New York City today. She will also be taking on Stephen Colbert in an interview on his show to air on Comedy Central tonight. Check your local listings.

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Stories from the Field from You

Has your local health department developed innovative ways to reach out to young adults? What has been the most successful tactic that your health department has used to reach college students? Why do you think certain tactics are working and others aren’t?
We want to hear from you! Share your stories and lessons learned with NACCHO.


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