Convergence has fulfilled a five-month contract acting as the Canterbury DHB’s communications manager. The Canterbury DHB is the largest employer in the South Island and our work involved a mix of strategic planning, managing the communications team and some tactical work. In addition to handling all DHB media enquiries (a 24/7 role) until a media liaison manager was appointed, we provided a strategic overview for communications plans on a range of projects including the multi-million dollar Facilities Development Plan and the DHB’s Alcohol and Drug Project, and developed a new media policy.
Meningococcal B Vaccination Programme – Canterbury District Health Board
As part of the national roll-out of the Meningococcal B vaccination programme in 2005, Canterbury DHB needed a local communications campaign to get across important community heath messages. With a target set at immunising 90 percent of the 122,000 children and youth aged 6 weeks to 19 years in Canterbury, a sound communications strategy was necessary. This communications role, undertaken by Convergence partner Erin Jamieson, called for close liaison with the Ministry of Health’s Meningococcal B Vaccination Programme Team as well as community interest groups and local and national media.
In conjunction with the Canterbury DHB’s project management team, Convergence wrote a comprehensive strategy submitted as part of the overall project implementation plan and approved by the Ministry of Health. The strategy involved proactive and reactive media relations; a comprehensive risk and issues management assessment; and separate plans for youth, Pacific Island and Maori and the primary care sector. Convergence briefed senior DHB staff and the Canterbury Medical Officer of Health on key issues and in preparation for media interviews, arranged community meetings and toured Ministry of Health spokesman Perry Bisman (father of MenzB victim Charlotte) to community meetings and media briefings. Convergence also worked closely with the schools team, assisting them with potential issues and media management.
“Erin’s professionalism is apparent in her ability to manage relationships and her discretion. She has excellent people skills and a talent for tailoring often quite complex information to suit different audiences. Erin understands the communication challenges of working in the health sector and has proven on many occasions that she is capable of working to very tight deadlines with excellent turn around times.”
– Rayoni Keith, former Meningococcal B Project Manager, CDHB
Southern District Health Board and Otago District Health Board – Vote Fluoride Campaign
Convergence was approached by the Otago and Southland DHBs to assist with a public campaign to help secure the ‘yes’ vote on the issue of adding fluoride to water supplies in Southland, Waitaki, Clutha and Central Otago. The four district councils had agreed to hold referenda on fluoridation in tandem with local government elections.
DHBs do not exercise any control over the adjustment of fluoride in water or the decision to hold referenda on the issue. Their role is one of approaching and supporting local authorities, then publicly campaigning to promote a ‘yes’ vote. In New Zealand district councils are responsible for deciding whether to fluoridate public water supplies or not. A referendum is the most common method of consulting the public on fluoride.
Despite the weight of research showing it is a safe and effective method of improving oral health at a public health level, fluoridation is a contentious subject. After conducting research on past national and international campaigns to determine best practice, Convergence recommended implementing a social marketing campaign.
Our philosophical approach was to run a courteous, respectful campaign acknowledging that those opposed have their opinion but that the public is entitled to receive information about the positive effects of fluoridation.
There were considerable challenges working on this project. There was a tight timeframe from first approaching the councils to request that they consider adding a referendum to the mail out of local body election voting papers.
It was also the first time in New Zealand that the issue of fluoridation has been addressed over such a large geographic area, incorporating four councils and many towns.
After a short campaign all councils agreed to hold referenda and the subsequent voting returned a ‘yes’ vote for two districts and a ‘no’ vote for two. This was considered a good result as the referenda process tends to favour opposing-fluoridation outcomes.
“Convergence was absolutely brilliant to work with on our regional social marketing campaign. We were very impressed with the quality of their work and the way they worked with our project team, our organisation and community. Right from the outset, they quickly gained a good understanding of our organisation and our project’s needs.
“Throughout they were all extremely professional. Their exceptional communication, listening and people skills enabled them to quickly become part of our project team. They grasped the complex project subject well and undertook the required research, resulting in a communications plan that was well aligned to our project’s vision.”
– Pip Stewart, Group Manager, Otago District Health Board