Background: Newborn screening (NBS) saves lives and prevents disabilities due to metabolic disorders by collecting blood samples from the heels of newborns. Poor-quality specimens must be recollected - delaying valid results, diagnosis and treatment. Recollection can also cause pain for the baby, stress for the family and more work for care providers. The Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory partnered with Genetic Alliance to create the educational video “Putting Babies First”, which focuses on reducing invalid specimens collected from newborns. The video has been promoted and distributed around the country through social media. Innovative metrics were used to analyze the virality and impact of social media on distribution.
Program background: The Iowa Newborn Screening Program provides services to Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. It seeks to reduce invalid specimens through education for healthcare professionals. First, a series of outreach and research activities were conducted. Surveys assessing knowledge and attitudes toward NBS were completed with Iowa nurses and phlebotomists. Later, focus groups were held to measure the knowledge, frustrations and insight into specimen collection that participants regularly face. Information collected through the surveys and focus groups was used to inform a ten-minute educational video addressing common questions and areas of confusion for NBS collectors. Video promotion was launched through collaborative Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and e-mail efforts in May 2012 at the annual American Public Health Laboratories conference and lasted until the project ended in August 2012. Many of these social media elements continue today as educational tools to inform the public about newborn screening.
Evaluation Methods and Results: Social media metrics quantitatively captured the impact of the video and additional NBS information: the video’s YouTube page, a 30-second video short, Twitter messages, promotional materials with QR codes and the “Putting Babies First” Facebook page. The video link was shared on the Facebook pages of nearly 800 hospitals and major public health organizations. As result, the two videos were viewed more than 1,200 times. Although Facebook “likes” were low, we reached 630 users in the project’s last week. Photos of a baby affected by NBS reached a virality of 41.8%. Blog posts, news releases, media news stories and offline video presentations maintained project interest. Seven months after completion, the project was featured by the Big 10 Network. This generated additional feedback well into 2013, which is the 50thanniversary of NBS in the United States. The Putting Babies First video and social media have been used to promote awareness of this anniversary.
Conclusions: Video promotion combined traditional and social media to maximize its potential. Publicity from traditional media generated public interest in the project’s activities on YouTube, Facebook and others platforms. Social media promoted our appearances in traditional media. Thus, we established a unified and coherent presence both online and offline.
Implications for research and/or practice: The project offers innovative research suggestions for how to measure the impact of health materials distributed via multiple online and offline platforms. Additionally, the video has the ability to raise awareness of NBS and set a precedent of cooperation between hospitals and public health laboratories.