Magazine article The Nation's Health

Innovative Teen Marketing Pays off in Nebraska, Philadelphia

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Innovative Teen Marketing Pays off in Nebraska, Philadelphia

Article excerpt

WHAT DO teens in carrot costumes, surprise fruit kabobs in class and mysterious hallway stickers have in common?

They are all part of an innovative Nebraska campaign that encourages physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption in high school students. Through the campaign, known as "Whatcha doin?," health officials in Nebraska have engaged high school students in promoting activity and healthy eating in schools across the state for about six years. Administered through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services with the assistance of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the program recruits students to lead campaigns at their high schools.

The Nebraska campaign takes an unusual tack: Instead of delivering health messages outright, students create interest on their campuses by running "secret" campaigns that reveal their message only once enough buzz has been created. For example, students involved in the campaign at their school may randomly hand out fruit to students or dress up in a carrot costume and run through the cafeteria. The efforts surprise their fellow students and leave them wanting to find out more, according to Amy Struthers, MA, an associate professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who spoke about the campaign at the National Conference on Health Communication and Media in Atlanta in August.

This year, the Nebraska campaign teamed up with NFL's Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which also encourages physical activity and healthy eating. With assistance from Whatcha doin?, 10 Nebraska schools applied for and received $4,000 grants each through the NFL program.

The Nebraska campaign is not the only one to successfully use marketing tactics to reach teens and young adults with health messages in recent months. …

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