January 10, 2010 By Hilton Collins
People make choices every day that affect our lives in ways we take for granted. Little things -- like that 11 p.m. bowl of ice cream someone eats four nights a week or the half-hour walk someone else takes every other day at noon -- can play roles in our long-term health, for better or worse.
Habits can be hard to break, even when we know they're bad for us. That's something staff members of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department in Salt Lake County, Utah, probably had in mind when they devised the One Small Change -- For the Health of It campaign, which encourages people to make tiny lifestyle changes where they can -- all in the name of living long and prospering.
"A lot of times with health messages, people are asked to change so much of what they do, and that can be very intimidating," said Kate Lilja, the department's public information specialist. "So the One Small Change campaign was a new spin on that by encouraging people to begin with manageable things."
Terri Sory, the department's chronic disease program manager, felt that these changes can put people on the path to better health. "The more that they make the small change, the more that there is an impact on them individually -- their families, obviously the community, and then our county as a whole," she said. "And then as they continue to make these one small changes and see how easy it is to do, they'll continue to progress in health."
It's definitely a community-minded promotion, which users discover while perusing the One Small Change section of the department's Web site. The numerous recommendations range from the smaller and more personal, like eating healthier or getting a vaccination, to larger and group-oriented efforts, like starting a wellness-at-work program, to the eco-friendly, like using recycled paper products.
"We wanted to encourage Salt Lake County residents to make a healthy lifestyle change this year, and that could be a behavior change that would positively impact our environment, like taking public transportation when available or switching to energy-efficient light bulbs," Lilja said.
But the campaign definitely isn't just tips on a Web page. The key component of One Small Change is the department-made video that's featured prominently on the site and the department's YouTube channel. The department uses social media tools, like Twitter and YouTube, to let citizens know it's out there.
"We decided that our YouTube video would really be the key part of our campaign, and so a lot of our efforts would just lead back to this video which would introduce people to the campaign," Lilja said.
The program combines two of the county's roles -- educating citizens on how to live healthier and using the Internet to reach them in ways that traditional avenues like radio, static Web sites and broadcast television don't.
And besides, a video on a Web page is likelier grab someone's attention than plain old text won't, no matter how wonderfully it's written or laid out.
"Directing people to a video is easier than directing them to a Web site where they actually read through a couple of pages of just information and ideas and instructions," Lilja said.
The video is a quick, informative affair that runs about four minutes and features county employees and friends speaking to the audience, and sometimes to each other, about changes people can make to improve their health or the environment.
"We used employees who were throughout the health department who became our resource, and it was actually a very incredible morale booster," Sory said. "People were excited about it, and they were buzzing about it."