Simplifying a Complex Initiative under One Brand
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Toward the end of the first year of the CDC funded Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Project (CORD), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) realized they must create a recognizable visual and clear, actionable set of messages for the project to be successful.
Children and families within the CORD sites, Fitchburg and New Bedford, MA, must trust where healthy eating and active living messages are coming from. That is where branding comes in – transforming a once confusing acronym into something recognizable and tangible.
Dr. Lauren Smith, the Interim Commissioner at the time, led the charge alongside the Harvard School of Public Health. Since DPH was working on a statewide initiative called Mass in Motion, which focuses on similar behaviors, it made sense to expand a familiar program to include a brand directed towards children ages 2-12 and their families. After vetting several ideas with the project leaders and community, the communications team conceived Mass in Motion Kids. DPH developed the logo and a set of design standards for printed materials. Using clear, easy to read fonts and fun, bright colors and imagery would effectively energize the delivery of the project.
- Switch from sugary drinks (like soda, sports, and fruit drinks) to water.
- Watch no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (includes TV, smartphones, and hand-held video games).
- Get at least 1 hour of physical activity (including active play) per day.
- Replace sugary, salty, fried, and fast food with fruits and vegetables.
- Sleep at least 11 hours per day (2-5 years old). Sleep at least 10 hours per day (6-12 years old).
While the brand was under development, the communications team carefully crafted specific messages that built the foundation for Mass in Motion Kids. After many in-depth discussions and gathering feedback from experts and families, the “Five Ways to Grow Healthy” messages were finalized (see callout box).
Gaining consensus among stakeholders about the details of these messages may have been the most challenging part of the messaging project. The Mass in Motion Kids team is made up of nutritionists, pediatricians, evaluators, parents, and educators – all who have different and valuable perspectives and priorities. Messages had to be age appropriate, incorporate health literacy, provide concrete examples, and explain the benefit of the five behaviors by including support statements, such as tips for parents. For example, giving parents ideas on how to help their children sleep better can be positioned as an academic benefit: sleeping well contributes to children’s success at school. And, it is difficult to get children only to drink water when they are accustomed to flavored, sweetened beverages. Adding lemon or strawberries to water or diluting juice may be a better alternative.
Materials developed that incorporated all of these messages include: A coloring book for young children to use; a booklet that parents can read to their children that talks about how to make simple changes throughout their day; and posters that stakeholders can display in various settings in the communities to reinforce these important messages.
Enough materials were printed to reach every child and family in Fitchburg and New Bedford being targeted by the program. Materials are currently being used in programming and will be continually distributed throughout the next few years. They are also made available by the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse and can be ordered online by the two communities at no cost. Getting these materials translated and printed in Spanish and Portuguese is already underway.
As project stakeholders continue to refine their clinical interventions, school curriculum, and systems and policy changes, these five messages are already reaching the community. Now children and families are beginning to notice Mass in Motion Kids – seeing that things are changing for the better and feeling supported along the way.