By Marion Reeves
As a wellness professional, I have a strong need to provide practical, useable information. One method that has stood the test of time is to build the platform of awareness no matter what the health topic is.
Awareness is the first step toward behaviour change but it is often undervalued when we have a hot new program to share. We want to have participants jump on board and get involved “for the good of their health” without taking the time to untangle the information coming at them. I have been guilty of this contribution to participant confusion in my rush to bring new, exciting interventions into the workplace. The race to build stats is then undermined by the transient workplace population who want to change and embrace what we offer, only to return to their former ways a relatively short time later.
How then do we approach the untangling of information and not lose our participants or stakeholders in the process? I suggest that to build a strong foundation there are several steps we can take:
•Build your own awareness. Yes, this means reviewing what you know of the topic you want to build your program on and then researching further to find out if new avenues are being explored.
•List all the basic information on the topic that is undisputed. Set it aside and then do the same for all the new or contentious thinking on the issue.
•Create the awareness piece (this could be an article in a newsletter, a program briefing paragraph for participants or a background section in a funding proposal) with your two lists at hand. Keep the initial focus on the undisputed information and then bring forward the newest thinking on the topic in a non-judgemental way. Think of it as laying the strong foundation for your priority population because their brains are just as likely as yours to go off on a wild goose chase in the pursuit of change. Remember that we are not inside the heads of our participants so it is best not to turn them away before we have a chance to create understanding.
•Reinforce awareness by offering selected articles or websites that you have vetted before hand. This is a good practice to follow when you are offering another program on the same topic at a later date (or even the same program if it has been successful). By guiding your priority population to quality information, you will be doing your part to untangle the misinformation and set them on a more realistic track. By following this step in a consistent manner, a secondary consequence is that you start to build a group or community around a topic — it may be sleep habits, nutrition for children, relaxation practices, exercise for seniors, heart health. Whatever the topic, people like to belong.