36525 Engaging Digital Influencers to Raise Awareness of Sodium in Children's Diets

Abigail Fredenburg, MA, Hager Sharp, Washington DC, DC, Amy Burnett Heldman, MPH, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, Katherina Grusich, BA, Contractor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, IHRC, Inc., Atlanta, GA, Janelle Gunn, MPH, RD, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Office of the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA and Shelly Spoeth, BS, Hager Sharp, Washington, DC

Background: In September 2014, CDC released a Vital Signsreport that found nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than recommended, and about 1 in 6 children has raised blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  CDC has used this report to inform and encourage consumer discussion around sodium in children’s diets and offer steps to help lower sodium intake. 

Program background: With the increase use of digital and social media to obtain health information, CDC has engaged top-tier digital influencers in the parenting and nutrition spaces to begin the online discussion among parents and caregivers around the levels of sodium in kid’s foods and the need for lower-sodium options. The overall goal of CDC’s effort is to sustain relationships with digital influencers to move their readers from awareness that sodium is a public health issue to acceptance that something must be done, and, then to action to support sodium reduction efforts. In order to build and sustain collaborative relationships with bloggers, CDC conducted outreach in three phases. For the first phase (Engage), CDC conducted specific outreach to bloggers who have 1) high reach/impact based on their social media fans/followers and 2) an existing platform that provides a natural fit with CDC’s messaging around sodium intake among children. For the second phase, CDC Established relationships with these bloggers and moved them toward developing blog content by providing new data from the CDC Vital Signs report. CDC is now working to build on and Sustain the relationships they’ve established by providing the digital influencers with updated information that resonates with their audience for the third phase. 

Evaluation Methods and Results: CDC established the bloggers reach (subscribers and social media followers) as a measurement of success. Because the overall goal of the program is to sustain relationships with digital influencers to move readers from awareness to action, CDC considers resulting blog posts as well as relationships established as a measurement of success. To date, CDC has secured placements with the following top-tier food, nutrition, and family blogs, including guest blog posts and podcast interviews:

  • Fooducate—Facebook fans: 95,548; Twitter followers: 25,700
  • MOMables—Facebook fans: 103,685; Twitter followers: 14,700
  • Healthy Schools Campaign—Facebook fans: 3,229; Twitter followers: 10,800
  • MomRising—Facebook fans: 109,140; Twitter followers: 18,600 

Conclusions: With their broad reach, digital influencers play a vital role in creating awareness about sodium in children’s diets. Because of their position of authority among their peer readers, they can also have great influence in inspiring them to take action in reducing sodium in their families and communities. 

Implications for research and/or practice: As consumers increasingly turn to digital and social media for health information, government groups and public health groups must meet their audience where they are and leverage the power peer influencers have to persuade their readers. Digital influencers can be a powerful voice in issues related to reducing sodium in children’s diets. They also can have an extensive reach among audiences with whom organizations with limited resources may not otherwise connect.