La Crosse County Health Department informs public during pandemic


La Crosse, Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) While many people use social media to share a life update or post a new photo, sometimes businesses use it as a tool.

First News at Nine’s Hayley Spitler has more on how health departments have been utilizing the platform to educate the public on the pandemic.

The La Crosse County health department has been informing the public on COVID-19 for months now.  And one tool they use to educate and be transparent is social media.

“As we’re trying to make social media posts, we’re just trying to get information out to the public in a way that makes sense to them.” Said Nicole Kragness, Registered Sanitarian.

When it comes to making a Facebook post, the department looks for a credible article to pull key points from in plain language.

Throw in a graphic and a call to action to empower the community and it’s time to publish. The department says one benefit to social media is the ability to get new information out in real time while measuring engagement.

For the team, that engagement isn’t always a positive response.

“I think as people feel frustrated it’s really easy to use social media as a way to express anger or all of that frustration.” Said Maggie Smith, Health Educator.

The four women behind the posts are real people who live in the community and say they understand that frustration.

Additionally, social media isn’t their normal role. They’ve shifted from health educators and sanitarians to media specialists.

“Having to jump in new roles, learn a new routine, do something you’ve never done before really describes the pandemic.” Said Abbie Loos, Nutrition Educator.

Their daily posts aim to be different and not always serious.

“Trying to be creative and finding new avenues of ways to get public health messages across right now is really important rather than seeing the same thing day after day.” Said Kragness. 

“Sometimes humor is a way to engage with populations that might not otherwise want to read something from a health department, so those have been a great opportunity to reach new audiences.” Said Smith.

Keeping that in mind, the department got comedian Charlie Berens to film a video encouraging face coverings.

Through it all, the message and goal for the posts remains the same.

As a single person, “it may not feel like a huge difference, but if every person followed the guidance and took precaution, we could really slow it down. Said Smith. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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