In another campaign, the DHB looked at research that among the biggest users of Facebook were young Maori women. Earlier, public health workers raised concern that members of this group were taking smoking in greater numbers, while the rates for other New Zealanders were dropping.
Gill says the DHB now uses Facebook to spread messages about not smoking during pregnancy, and after giving birth, to not pick up the habit again. "We use social media in a non-judgmental way to assist them."
She says the DHB is working with other agencies like the Maori Health Services and paediatricians in getting this message out. "We reinforce those messages on social media when nurses speak to them."
Last year, the DHB worked with the Chiefs, the local "Super 15" rugby team to promote the flu vaccine. They posted Facebook photos of the players wearing their uniforms while being vaccinated. The families of the players joined the event, which also came out in national media.
The lesson here? "If there is a bit of opportunity to help put out health messaging, have a bit of fun," she advises.
The most important rule on social media is you need to pick up quickly what is said about you, says Gill. "The role of moderator is essential."
Gill says the DHB has a webmaster, Andre Chivell, who monitors their social media sites. "He is forever finding tools to see when we are mentioned, whether positively or negatively."
Staff also have to be empowered to be able to respond to a posting, for instance, about somebody who has been waiting for days to get an appointment with the hospital. Staff can contact the person via private mail to provide them the details and raise it to the department involved.
"If you are going to be there, [you have to] be committed."
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