Publicize locally to attract crowd

Scheduling community outreach events to coincide with nationally designated health observances ensures that a specific disease or health risk will have a fair amount of national media coverage. However, it won’t publicize events on a local level.

Patient education managers need to promote their outreach efforts to attract the community. There are several ways to get the word out. Following are a few suggestions from your colleagues:

Distribute fliers.

To alert patients about outreach efforts at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Albuquerque, NM, patient education coordinator Carol Maller, MS, RN, CHES, distributes fliers to local clinics on the day of the event. If they were distributed any sooner, patients would forget, she explains. Volunteers go to the clinics and post the fliers. Also, they give them to patients sitting in the waiting rooms.

Use local media.

To alert the public about an upcoming community outreach event sponsored by Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria, LA, ads are placed in the local newspaper. A full-page community calendar runs the last day of each month for the upcoming month. The cost is covered by the community outreach budget.

Also, Karen Hathorn, RN, MSN, community education manager for the health care facility, schedules television interviews on the local morning show and the noon and evening news. To attract coverage from local media, the medical center’s public relations department sends news releases. Public relations staff routinely send news releases once a week to keep the local media abreast of all outreach efforts at the hospital.

Send out invitations.

Staff at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, NE, used National Diabetes Month in November to augment the lessons taught in the community education program on diabetes. Therefore, rather than advertising to the general public, they sent invitations to people who had previously attended the classes and posted fliers in the clinics that had referred diabetic patients to the program.

The hospital hosted a small conference on diabetes featuring three speakers. Topics included holiday meal planning, the importance of exercise, and how common illnesses such as a cold or flu can affect diabetes. Between breaks, participants could visit vendor tables that were set up, have their blood pressure checked, and sample turkey dinners that had been created to show people with diabetes how to adapt a holiday meal to a diabetic diet.

"Our event was designed to motivate people — not only give them information but show them what to do," says Mary Wolcott, RN, MSN, patient education coordinator at the hospital.