What Can You Do?
“Mass media, both traditional media, like TV and magazines, and ’new’ media, like Web sites, social networking sites, and text messaging, have enormous potential and power to influence individual behaviors and societal attitudes.”
There are several ways for those of you working in the media and communications sector to help spread the word about the impact arthritis has on our nation and encourage increased opportunities for physical activity. Print, broadcast, social media, and personal stories are all effective, if used strategically and thoughtfully.
A few tips
Keep in mind some critical barriers:
- The health media landscape is very crowded. Conditions like obesity tend to dominate.
- Arthritis alone tends not to attract media attention because it may not be perceived as “sexy” or newsworthy. In addition, the high prevalence and television ads touting treatments for the “minor aches and pains of arthritis” all contribute to the perception that it is a common nuisance to be tolerated.
- People are tired of hearing about how good physical activity is for their health. Convincing those who are inactive is getting increasingly difficult.
What strategies will make the most difference?
Consider a media strategy that includes increased coverage at both national and local levels, through major networks and popular anchors as well as mayors and other community figures.
Take into account the primary ways adults get their health messages. While social media may become more important over time, Twitter and Facebook are not the principal vehicles for older adult age groups. Instead, they may rely on websites sponsored by AARP or WebMD, health magazines that they read in providers’ offices, and their daily local newspapers and neighborhood weeklies, and radio talk shows.
Bear in mind that policy makers are another valuable audience. They will likely get their information from sources that older adults may not, so the messages and the vehicles need to be tailored to them specifically.
Consider media coverage throughout the year, but particularly concentrate on coverage before and during local or national newsworthy events, such as in May — Arthritis Month — and World Arthritis Day.
- Let people know that the disease is not just an inevitable part of aging and stress “living with” rather than “suffering from” arthritis.
- Let people know that they can still pursue the activities they enjoy, and don’t have to give up their jobs, even if they are diagnosed with arthritis. Physical activity can help them remain engaged in valued life activities.
- Let people know who arthritis affects (e.g., two-thirds of working aged adults, 18–64 years).
If adults suspect that they have arthritis, encourage them to visit a provider and emphasize that they can reduce arthritis symptoms by boosting physical activity.
Use photos of adults with arthritis with whom your audience can identify. Your message will resonate more with your audience if they hear your story.
Feel free to click and copy the photos on this website, particularly those that show how active adults with arthritis can be.
Involve credible organizations with good reputations and leaders in the field, including your local Arthritis Foundation and American College of Rheumatology (ACR). Organizations like these often have a “press area” on their websites. These sites and others can be mined for the latest stories and data hooks.
Coordinate media efforts with local organizations that are committed to physical activity and are already providing some message to adults with arthritis. This may include organizations that are likely to be working with people with arthritis, which may vary with the demographics of their constituents.