Pointers for LHDs Using NACCHO's CHSI Press Release Template
Choosing and Reporting Indicators:
This template release focuses on the value of using CHSI reports as a tool for assessing community health and directing new efforts in public health program planning. Many local reporters and stakeholders, however, will be more interested in what the report actually says about the health of your particular county. When choosing indicators to include in the release and when talking to the media and stakeholders, keep in mind the following rules of thumb:
- Know the report better than the person who is asking you questions about it.
- Choose indicators that in some way make your county stand out from others, but be prepared to talk about how the tool will help identify and address troubled areas as well as see where current efforts are paying off.
- Even seemingly negative data (for example, high infant mortality rates) present an opportunity to talk about the positive work of the health department. This type of data can be used as leverage to gain support for new programs and secure funding for ongoing work.
- Address the bad news as well as the good. The release gives you an opportunity to get out ahead of the story, especially if the report shows something interesting (good or bad) about your county.
- Try to keep reporters honest by reminding them that you are the subject matter experts. For example, if a reporter tries to compare your county's performance on an indicator to the national average when it's more appropriate to look at counties with similar demographics, articulate that clearly in your response.
Distributing and Pitching the Release:
Public information officers (PIOs) at many health departments have systems for engaging the media and other stakeholders. Departments with less experience or resources in this area should consider reaching out to larger health departments in their area for advice and assistance. You can increase interest in the release by targeting specific media in a clear and concise way. The following points provide advice on choosing and engaging appropriate members of the media.
- Search the Web sites of local papers to find out who usually writes about health issues. Many smaller papers will not have a dedicated health reporter, so in addition to writers, editors should be included in mailings. Be sure you are looking at the most current articles and not trying to reach a reporter who moved on two years ago.
- A personal e-mail or follow-up phone call to targeted members of the media will allow you to present the information that is most important to your health department. A "pitch" call should be loosely scripted so that it is succinct and engaging. If you leave a message, it should be about 15 to 30 seconds long). E-mails should be personal enough to let the reporter know that you've done your research, yet short enough for your recipient to scan quickly.
- Whenever possible, work closely with county-level public health leaders to ensure that everyone who might be asked to comment has a consistent message. Have one or two people standing by as spokespeople in case a reporter is interested.
- View this release as an opportunity to establish or strengthen relationships with reporters. There may or may not be a news story here for local media, but informing them of the report findings and the Web resource will help them remember the health department as a responsive and reliable source of information.
Suggested Talking Points:
All health department spokespeople should be provided a copy of the talking points and briefed on the report's findings. The talking points below are intentionally generic because it is up to each jurisdiction to tell its own unique story about the health of the community. The points below relate specifically to the use of CHSI as a tool for addressing health issues and future planning. You should tailor these and add additional talking points that are specific to your county.
- The CHSI report gives us a clearer and more detailed picture of the county's health. It will allow us to plan for the most serious health issues facing county residents, and just as importantly, help us direct those efforts toward the most vulnerable members of our community.
- Although we were already aware of a lot of the data in this report, we now have the ability to see who our peers are, how they are doing, and when it makes sense to collaborate with them to find solutions that help keep our communities healthy and safe.
- The report also gives us an excellent picture of the county's health to share with policymakers and community advocates. The health department needs cooperation and support from both of these sectors to provide the most effective services. We must have adequate funding and strong, well-informed partners in order to keep people healthy.
- Knowledge is an important first step in developing effective public health programs and initiatives. This report gives us knowledge about the health of county residents and also about who our peers and natural partners are.