Background and Research:
With two-thirds of Boston’s population under the age of 44, and the burden of H1N1 falling deep within that demographic, the Boston Public Health Commission knew it had a communication challenge. As the BPHC’s Executive Director Barbara Ferrer told the Boston Globe, young people “don’t watch the 6 o’clock news and they’re not picking up our pamphlets.” The strategy developed by agency’s Communication’s Office to reach out to this group followed the age-old public health axiom of meeting people where they are. In this case, it meant meeting people through social media, and online video.

The goal of the project was to create a music video that would catch the attention of Boston youth and successfully communicate four key flu prevention messages: staying home when sick, covering a cough, washing hands, and getting vaccinated.

Ethan “Smizzy” McCoy and Taji “Boston Bones” Salah Nassor - two local rap artists and interns at the Boston Public Health Commission’s Men’s Health CREW program - wrote the song. A spoof of The Dream's “Walking on the Moon,” “Talkin’ ‘bout the flu” promoted messages of staying home when sick, covering a cough, washing hands, and getting vaccinated. We hired a local videographer to shoot the video, which was directed and edited by our in-house multimedia producer, Margaux Joffe. A 30 second version of the music video screened as a commercial in Boston movie theaters and on cable stations, as well as featured on the Commission’s website, YouTube Channel and Facebook page.

Produced on a shoestring budget of less than $1,000, the flu-prevention music video was a hit. Once the video was unveiled on the Commission's YouTube and Facebook page, it successfully caught the attention of young adults in Boston and across the country. The song gained local and international attention, and was adapted by health departments of Los Angeles, Tacoma, and Seattle to promote their H1N1 vaccination clinics. It is the most watched video on the agency's YouTube Channel, with over 11,200 views. The YouTube video has been praised as one of the best uses of social media in Massachusetts during the H1N1 response.

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