Students Create Statewide Education Campaign
Students in COMM 370 Health Communication have developed a statewide public health education campaign to inform Illinois residents about the impacts of the federal healthcare reform law. The campaign, “I’LL Be Healthy,” was created for the non-profit Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, which was the class pro bono client during fall semester.
The campaign features a logo with the words “I’LL Be Healthy” superimposed on an outline of the state of Illinois. “I’LL” plays on the state’s abbreviation, and refers both to Illinois as a whole and to Illinois residents as individuals. The theme was the idea of junior Ericka Reyes, and senior Meg Herbst designed the logo and all the other visual elements.
“It was important for the logo to make the campaign exclusive to Illinois so residents can recognize it and have a proud attachment to their state,” Herbst said.
The Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, is a dense 1,000-page document few Americans understand. President Barack Obama’s reelection paved the way for continued implementation of the law, including key provisions due to take effect in 2014. An awareness gap persists, however. Because the law has been so controversial, and because its fate was tied to the presidential campaign, there has been little intelligent public discussion about the specifics of putting the law into action. Many Americans who can get – or will soon – improved healthcare access, additional benefits, or cost savings do not realize what’s ahead.
As a result, federal and state governments have begun to think about ways to raise awareness of the Affordable Care Act through public education campaigns. “I’LL Be Healthy” could be that campaign in Illinois, according to Kathy Waligora, policy and communication coordinator for the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition. Waligora said she and other leaders of the coalition “agree that this is such a strong concept it could become the state-sponsored outreach campaign. That would be a huge boost for us and obviously a great accomplishment for the student team.”
Waligora said the coalition plans to present the campaign to BlueCross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and the Illinois Department of Insurance to try to get funding for implementation. The coalition also bought the domain name for the website and registered the Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Campaign elements include a website, print and radio public service announcements, a brochure, news conferences around the state to launch the campaign, and intensive use of social media. “Social media lends itself very well to this campaign because it allows real‑time communication between the organization and its audiences,” said junior Laura Kujava.
Waligora said she was thrilled by the campaign and loved its bold visuals. “The campaign really succeeds in boiling down the complexities of the Affordable Care Act into a few key points,” she told the students.
The campaign was created to be inclusive – geographically, demographically, socially, and politically. And by highlighting the stories and photos of real Illinois residents, the campaign aims to show to show all Illinoisans how the Affordable Care Act can impact them and their families.
By using simple, clear language instead of jargon, the campaign is designed to help educate Illinois residents. In addition, by explaining the next steps for the law, the campaign makes it clear that Illinois residents have a stake in whether the law is implemented in a timely and effective way in the state.
Asst. Prof. Marjorie Kruvand, who taught the course, said she was amazed by what the seven students accomplished. “It was creativity and teamwork at its best, with students pitching in to help each other and complete the project on time,” she said. “The students also learned an incredible amount about healthcare. They’re now experts on the Affordable Care Act.”