Generations of people are now receiving news and information in 140 characters or less, thanks to the popularity of social media. So how do you get important health information out to teens when what currently exists is considered boring to them? Easy – just ask them.
That's exactly what Philadelphia Ujima™ of Drexel University College of Medicine is doing through its six-week summer Social Media, Health and Leadership Internship. The program gives students the opportunity to shape their own health messages that address issues concerning them. Ujima hires Philadelphia high school students to be the brains and creativity behind teen health information in order to increase youth awareness, advocacy and engagement.
"Teenagers often find existing online health information too 'cheesy,' immature, or dry," says Ana Núñez, MD, associate dean for urban health equity, education and research. "If we want youth to take the time to read or hear health messages, we need help in finding a 'teen voice.' We achieve this by involving and engaging youth in our internship who then create real, innovative, relevant and needed information for their peers."
This program seeks to improve the health information teens have available to them today through social media technology. A large majority of American teens have social media accounts, and many pay attention to posted information. Philadelphia Ujima believes that teens have the ability to create messages that are eye catching and valuable to their peers. Teen interns are mentored by undergraduate and graduate students, and program staff. They learn communication skills, including creative writing, health literacy and health promotion. They critically evaluate the effectiveness of social media, and extensively research a health topic that is relevant to teens today. A sampling of topics of this year's projects include: teen drug use, rape, suicide and LGBT discrimination.
The projects include a creative component (story, poem, dance, video, app, website, etc.) that is posted on Ujima's social media sites: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, its blog and website. Once the projects are posted to one or more of the program's platforms, the interns can begin promoting them on their own and their friends' accounts to increase the likelihood that the information is viewed.
This is the third summer of the internship. Previous projects can be seen at http://philadelphiaujima.com/youth/2013-ujima-intern-projects.