Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Public health goes to the movies

“Going to my daughter’s graduation.”

“Playing with my dogs.”

“Spending a lot more time with my grandkids.”

Those were some of the words of heart attack and stroke survivors who shared their personal stories in “Faces of a Million Hearts,” a short film aimed at encouraging people to reduce their health risk.

Featured as part of the annual APHA Film Festival, that short by the Million Hearts campaign was one of many examples of the power of video to spread key public health messages. From improving exercise among Native Hawaiians to highlighting good oral health habits, the films illustrate how prevention, awareness and advocacy can translate well on the screen.

In one film, deaf breast cancer survivors described via sign language how they found hope in meeting others like them. In another, dancers in wheelchairs are part of a unique modern dance company.

This marks the ninth year of the festival, which started with a handful of public health films and has grown to span several days and spotlight both U.S. and international public health messages. Film festival co-founder Gary Black warned the audience that Monday’s domestic film session would be “rough and bumpy like a cable car ride” with many stops and starts. Yet attendees said they enjoyed the format that had screenings of public service announcements as short as 45 seconds and 3-minute excerpts of longer films.

Producers of some of the films were on hand to share lessons learned in making effective public health films. One such lesson: It doesn't always take a big budget. Those with smaller budgets can shoot the videos using an inexpensive flipcam, which runs about $150. Also consider collaborating with local community colleges or television stations for help, they said. One key to success is to involve your target audience both in putting the film together and distributing its message.

Joshua Romero of the University of California San Diego Antiviral Research Center said an existing community advisory board helped with the messaging behind “Would you or wouldn’t you?” That film introduces a community-based HIV testing campaign.

“A lot of the people we serve are very anxious and willing to give us their feedback," Romero said.

Other film producers said focus groups can help ensure the video resonates best with the target audience, whether that be inactive adults, new mothers or teens at risk for engaging in unsafe sex practices.

How do you reach your audience with the video message? Use websites and YouTube, producers said during yesterday's session.

“I’m sure all of us have posted some of these to our Facebook pages,” said Black, who helped produce the “Wonderful Thing About Breastfeeding” film for the Mecklenburg County Health Department in Charlotte, N.C. “Use every available channel and ask your audience, ‘where do you get your information?’”

Black said he’s amazed and heartened by how the annual film festival has grown.

“One of my goals when I started doing this was to let other folks know you don’t need a million-dollar film studio to help you in your work,” Black said. “That’s my bias: to have a grassroots effort of people using these digital tools and using the art of storytelling to achieve social justice, to eliminate health disparities and to achieve a healthier nation.”

Three more sessions of the film festival are scheduled for today: session 4110.2 from 10:30 a.m.–noon, session 4215 from 12:30-2 p.m. and session 4307 from 2:30-4 p.m.; and session 5178 on Wednesday runs from 12:30 to 2 p.m. All the film festival sessions take place in Moscone Convention Center West Room 2014.

— D.C.

No comments: