How do you deliver vital health information and get people vaccinated against an unfamiliar strain of influenza?
In 2009, during the H1N1 flu virus outbreak, the California Department of Public Health wanted to help citizens get vaccinated against the particularly dangerous strain of influenza as quickly as possible. The H1N1 flu virus was different from the seasonal flu in that it was more likely to spread within communities and infect children and young adults. The CDPH had a database with information on which clinics and pharmacies were stocked with the newly developed vaccine, but no simple way for people to access this information and find out where they could get vaccinated.
A text message flu shot locator helped people find the nearest location offering vaccinations.
The CPDH worked with Mobile Commons to create a text message flu shot locator as part of the “Stop H1N1” flu vaccine campaign. Instead of asking citizens to search through an online database of all the healthcare facilities that were offering vaccinations, people could text in their location and immediately receive a response with information on the nearest clinic or pharmacy. The ability to offer targeted information to each mobile user made it easier and more likely for people to find a flu shot provider and get protected sooner. The service was promoted on billboards, public transit advertisements, and social media to encourage Californians to text in to locate the nearest clinic or pharmacy.
“We’re reaching out to an age group that typically doesn’t get vaccinated. We are increasing vaccine awareness through texting and social networking.” -Tiffany Sutter, Immunization Branch, Information and Education Section Chief
33% of respondents said they received a flu shot at the suggested location.
Over 1,000 people texted in to find out where they could get vaccinated within the first three days of the campaign. After the campaign, the California Department of Public Health sent a survey to everyone who used the locator. They saw incredible results:
- 50% of people who texted in responded to a survey a week after they initially texted in.
- 33% of the respondents said they received a flu shot at the suggested location.
- Of the people who had not yet received a flu shot, 40% said they still planned on getting the flu shot.
As the H1N1 flu virus pandemic spread around the country, the CDPH used technology to help citizens stay informed. They turned general advice to “get a flu shot” into the specific, action-oriented message, “get a flu shot in your neighborhood, right now”. The success of this program led the New York City Department of Health to launch its own flu shot locator for the seasonal flu.