Outside In SLO graphic

The County Public Health Department was recognized for developing a program that demonstrates exemplary service and models best practices in response to a local public need.

The County’s OutsideIn SLO: We Take Health and Climate Change Personally campaign was one of 19 health department programs to receive the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) prestigious Model Practice Award at the 2016 Annual Conference .

“This award is evidence of our commitment to developing responsive and innovative public health programs that improve the health of local residents,” said County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.

OutsideIn SLO was a pilot program led by a partnership between the County Public Health Department and the California Department of Public Health. The program focused on a health education campaign designed to highlight the effect climate change has on our community’s health.

This was the first formal campaign implemented by a local public health department’s existing staff in California that communicated why climate change is a critical public health issue. The campaign focused on ways people can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time benefit their health and quality of life.

“Climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Yet few Americans are aware of the very real consequences of climate change on the health of our communities, our families and our children.”

The County used OutsideIn SLO as an innovative approach to addressing this issue. The State works with all local health jurisdictions on many different health issues and indicated that this is a unique program in California. The County’s approach was based on health promotion and attempts to connect with people’s values and emotions, but also to compel them to action.

The idea was simple: Have existing health educators, who are already working in the community, focus on how reducing climate change can also improve personal health.

The campaign had three broad goals:

  1. Train staff, clients, and the community on the relationship between climate change and health
  2. Motivate people to take action
  3. Do it all on a shoestring budget

During this campaign, all of the following objectives were met:

  • 20 presentations were made to more than 700 people, including the majority of public health staff and numerous community groups.
  • Outreach was performed at 10 different farmer’s markets.
  • The campaign garnered coverage in eight different earned media pieces including newspaper articles and radio interviews. In addition, at least one post per week was featured on the Public Health Department’s social media accounts.
  • Three different public service announcements were aired, both in English and Spanish, in more than 1,500 spots on local radio stations.
  • 1,100 Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program families received either individual or group education on climate change. This was integrated into typical nutrition curriculum, connecting the benefits of buying local, seasonal produce with active transportation and simple things clients could do at home.
  • More than 1,700 hundred hours of staff time, collectively, were dedicated to the project, but because this was spread out between many staff members the burden was not unreasonable. Other than paying a student intern to help coordinate the many program facets, little additional funding was necessary to make the program operational.

One of the biggest challenges the County encountered was moving from education to action. Once people were presented with educational information, they would often ask what they could do to help.

“All of us have a role and even the simplest things done collectively have an impact,” Dr. Borenstein said.