According to an October 2019 story in the Los Angeles times, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked vaping to 1,479 cases of a mysterious lung disease over the last six months. At least 33 people have died since the outbreak began.” The number of adolescents vaping has grown exponentially and now 1 in 4 students report using e-cigarettes, according to the CDC.
Hackensack/Meridian Health is one of the area’s leading voices behind the anti-vaping movement, and the network is investing more than $1 million to combat the growing epidemic. Yet, it was a visit to campus last fall by the network’s Director of Executive Communications and Media Relations, MaryJo Layton, that made her rethink the health system’s communication strategy. She spoke to a group of SCM students and their feedback gave her a new perspective. “I saw that while we were getting our message out through some really prestigious media outlets, we weren’t doing a good job at all reaching the very demographic – college students – that is most directly impacted by vaping,” she said. “And, the students really opened my eyes about how we were missing our mark.”
This past week, Layton, now joined by the health system’s VP of Digital Engagement, Pam Landis, visited again. This time, it was to begin planning a campus-wide anti-vaping event with a team of PR Management students. The five student team, seniors Brianna Cortez, Alexia Darby, Berrie Owes, Rayson Bernard, and Tiffany Moran, will be responsible for planning the on campus activities, which is tentatively scheduled for the last week in April. Hackensack/Meridian will coordinate participation by doctors, nurses, advocates, and former patients, and help support interest with publicity.