Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention developed a communications program, i2i: What R U Looking 4 (i2i), to promote respectful, nonviolent dating relationships among 11- to 14-year-old youth in urban communities, as part of Dating Matters, a comprehensive teen dating violence (TDV) prevention initiative. Due to concentrated poverty, lack of resources, and exposure to community violence, this audience may be at an increased risk of TDV. In addition, few health communication programs have been effective in reaching this target audience and have focused on the specific topic area of TDV.
Program background: The i2i Youth Communications Program reaches urban youth by activating authentic messages and messengers to reinforce healthy behaviors through engaging communities and partners, utilizing near peers (i2i Ambassadors), and providing resources and tools. i2i is designed for implementation by four community Health Departments participating in the Dating Matters randomized control trial. Because each community is unique, on behalf of CDC, Ogilvy designed i2i and its materials to allow communities flexibility to customize the program to meet their individual needs, as well as remain authentic and fresh to encourage youth participation year after year. i2i is a direct-to-youth communications program that engages near peers, slightly older youth, as authentic messengers (i.e., i2iAmbassadors) to co-create and reinforce healthy dating behaviors in a manner that can be carried out and tailored by the community grantees.
Evaluation Methods and Results: Throughout program implementation, data is collected regularly through a community progress tracker, a quarterly progress evaluation tool which records implementation activities and challenges by community, and monthly communications calls with grantees. Annually, CDC and Ogilvy compile and discuss lessons learned and provide key learnings back to the communities.
Conclusions: Three years of implementation have shown the importance of providing a well-defined but flexible structure. This allows the communities enough leeway to adapt the program to take advantage of community strengths and manage their resource limitations. For example, i2ihas evolved to:
- Provide benchmarks for success, while letting communities develop their own strategies for meeting those metrics.
- Design materials that communities can customize and reuse, for example, an event toolkit with items to be used at any community event to ensure brand visibility-clear messaging, and provide resources to be used across multiple events.
- Constantly re-evaluate tools used to deliver messaging to ensure they are meeting audience not only where they are but where they are receptive to prevention information.
- Leveraging partnerships with local CBOs to help recruit youth Ambassadors and provide event space
- Providing youth development and leadership opportunities for i2i Ambassadors to enhance the experience and improve their effectiveness
Implications for research and/or practice: When designing large-scale projects to be implemented on the community level, health communicators must assess what components are essential for effective implementation and what components can be adapted to suit community needs. Lessons learned from implementing i2i can be applied when developing health promotion initiatives intended to be employed in multiple communities.