Twitter party spreads research on pediatric pain management

Year-long #ItDoesntHaveToHurt initiative provides helpful tips to parents

A unique online science-media partnership that gives concerned parents up to date research to help them manage their children’s pain has celebrated its first anniversary with a live Twitter video party.

The Sept. 15 party for #ItDoesntHaveToHurt at Twitter Canada headquarters trended number one in Canada on the social media platform and marked the first time Twitter’s Q&A video app, called VIT (Very Important Tweeter), has been used to provide health information to the public. It’s previously been used by the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and star athlete Penny Oleksiak.

Led by the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research and aimed at getting science on children’s pain management to parents, #ItDoesntHaveToHurt dramatically slashes the amount of time it takes to get research to parents, says Dr. Christine Chambers, a clinical psychologist and children’s pain researcher at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“Only in recent years have we realized what an incredible gap there is in the science that we have and where science is typically communicated, which is medical journals and conferences,” says Chambers, who helped create #ItDoesntHaveToHurt. Research has found it can take 17 years for science to find its way to people that need it and there has to be a better way to get research out.

Chambers believes the answer lies in getting pain management information out to parents in an engaging way and, through Twitter, reached out to Erica Ehm. Ehm is CEO and creative director of Ehm & Co, a marketing firm with an emphasis on native advertising and influencer programs that also operates (YMC).

The two came up with the idea of using Ehm’s team and network of mom social influencers to create an audience and build pediatric pain into a brand. Over the past twelve months Chambers and her team have provided research to Ehm & Co, which has then shared it through YMC, blogs, social media posts and video.

“It’s just kind of changing the way we communicate with parents about health information,” says Chambers. “Parents are going online for health information for their children and I think we, as health professionals, have a responsibility to make sure the information they need is there when they go looking.”

Chambers notes one in five children has chronic pain. As well, vaccinations can sometimes be so painful that parents don’t get their children vaccinated, when there are simple and proven strategies available to help.

“People just feel that pain is part of life and they aren’t aware that there are better strategies for managing pain,” says Chambers.

Ehm & Co takes research provided by Chambers and “pulls out the salient points that would connect with moms,” Ehm says.

For example, to explain research that has found a baby’s pain is reduced if a mother breastfeeds while her baby gets a needle, it used a simple image of a mother breastfeeding.

#ItDoesntHaveToHurt was funded by a $200,000 research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that covered program development, one-year of the campaign and subsequent data analysis.

The IWK Health Centre has provided an undetermined amount of funding to allow the campaign to continue for at least another year.

Prior to last week’s Twitter party, the campaign had generated more than 100 million impressions, while posts on the YMC website had more than 42,000 pageviews and videos had more than 150,000 plays on YouTube and Facebook. Social media generated more than 3 million impressions in earned media.

Last week’s Twitter party, attended at Twitter HQ by about 60 hospital and university presidents, pain researchers, mom influencers and content creators, had a reach of 1.06 million, 43.6 million impressions and 7,352 tweets. The event allowed researchers to answer parents’ questions about children’s pain live on video.

Research is now underway to quantify how the pain research that’s been disseminated has moved the needle with parents. About 2,000 parents who completed an online survey before the campaign started are completing another survey to find out what they learned. Phone interviews are also being conducted with 200 people on their awareness and use of pain management.

The survey findings should be completed in a few months.

Felicity is Ehm & Co’s public relations agency.






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