CDC 2011 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media, August 9-11, Atlanta, Georgia Title: Virginia Hospital

Center Medical Brigade: Improving Health in Honduras and Building Innovative Engagement and Strategic Communication Strategies and Programs Presenter: Amee Roberson, Booz Allen Hamilton Learning objectives: This case study will offer participants multiple perspectives on lessons learned through this long-term public health mission, as well as guidance on how to: • • • Conceive a strategic vision and communications strategy for a large public health initiative Design an effective stakeholder/volunteer engagement program for a large public health initiative Build and implement a measurable stakeholder/volunteer strategy and a measurable plan to increase awareness levels, promote engagement levels and encourage understanding of targeted stakeholders through tools and tactics

Abstract: Since 1998, the Virginia Hospital Center Medical Brigade has supported a public service health mission to provide clean water, improved public health infrastructure, and better access to medical care and supplies for individuals across Honduras. The Brigade’s mission is based on building public health infrastructure to ensure the availability and use of clean water, assisting with the construction of water tanks and distribution systems that provided clean, running water to a town of roughly 2,000 people who never had regular access to this basic necessity. Clean drinking water is a critical international issue that leads to the deaths of more than 1.5 million children worldwide each year, from diarrhea-related illnesses caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation. Communicable diseases drastically reduce the average life expectancies of Honduran citizens across the board, to 67.8 years for men and 71 years for women, compared to 75.2 and 80.4, respectively, for Americans. To help educate Honduran citizens, the Brigade developed Remote Village Water Project outreach materials and developed a 172-page training program manual, which included in-depth information on operations and maintenance of the water systems, treatment techniques, delivery devices and basic sanitation systems. Brigade volunteers used this resource to help train Hondurans, who serve as health leaders and water board members in their communities. The Brigade packaged and transported supplies to Honduras for the annual VHCMB medical mission, and leadership messages were sent to hospital staff employees and Brigade members to encourage their participation in each session. Messages were posted on the Brigade’s website and social media channels to drive participation, and the overall efforts were recognized with an Omni Intermedia Award Bronze Medal in June 2008. In the past year, the Brigade conducted more than 9,100 patient visits and 117 surgeries. The team also distributed 3,000 pairs of eyeglasses and thousands of vitamins, pain relievers, antibiotics, digestive and heart medications, and basic hygiene products. The Brigade distributed medical supplies for children and adults, including hundreds of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and specialized footwear. Currently, the Brigade has more than 90 core volunteers, with more than 30 volunteer public health and strategic communications Booz Allen Hamilton consultants. This case study will demonstrate how the Brigade linked strategic guidance and public health support to build an effective communications strategy that included building coalitions, developing video testimonials, blogs, social media tactics and All-Hands meetings, raising awareness levels of the Brigade’s hospital staff to promote volunteerism, and developing effective health promotion and disease prevention materials for the Honduran citizens.

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