Mithaas | Project strategy & health communications

Summary

I project-managed an 8-month multi-media campaign that used the power of stories to promote healthy lifestyle change in South Asian communities.

Details

Background: Cities Changing Diabetes is a global partnership program initiated by Novo Nordisk to address rising rates of urban diabetes. Now in more than 30 cities around the world, the program brings together local partners from across sectors to research each city’s unique diabetes challenges, share insights, and catalyze solutions.

Challenge: Diabetes is a prevalent and urgent health issue for South Asian Canadians, who are 3 to 6 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the general population.

Community engagement and research revealed a lack of culturally relevant diabetes resources tailored for South Asian community members. Older South Asian adults with diabetes also said they fear being a burden their families, and so they often avoided talking about their disease.

Actions: In my role with Novo Nordisk Canada, I supported research, execution and evaluation of Mithaas – a storytelling campaign to promote diabetes dialogue and healthy behaviour change for South Asian families using film, social media and in-person events.

The Mithaas campaign was built on evidence that stories are powerful tools to change health behaviour. Named for the Hindi and Punjabi word for “sweetness,” Mithaas aimed to get South Asian families talking about diabetes and connecting with local resources using film, social media, and events.

The launch video challenged stereotypes of older South Asian adults facing diabetes.

I organized and coordinated the initial community roundtables that sparked the idea for the campaign and supported our team in next steps of contracting vendors and partners for the project.

Throughout campaign development, I worked closely with the vendors by conducting research, facilitating approvals on content and plans, shaping strategy and providing project management services with our lead creative partner, Dunya media.

The campaign centred on Aadha Chammach (“Half a Teaspoon”), an eight-minute short film shared on social media and screened at six in-person events throughout 2019.

The film told a relatable story to start inter-generational conversations about diabetes and encourage small, actionable changes – like reducing multiple spoons of sugar to just a half teaspoon in a cup of chai.

I also led event planning and media relations for the final community-based screening and health fair, and on campaign evaluation.

The campaign was tailored for South Asian Canadians aged 50+ and their adult children who identify primarily with Punjabi-speaking and/or Sikh communities, and do not identify as recent newcomers to Canada – reflecting the largest community of South Asians living in the Greater Vancouver Area.

Results

Over the eight months of the campaign, more than 7000 people attended the six in-person events across Canada.

We saw a sky-high 28% engagement rate on Instagram, and collaborated with more than 20 partner organizations (non-profits, community groups, local companies and places of worship) to develop and share campaign content online and offline.

Qualitative and quantitative feedback from community members and patients illustrated how the content resonated:

“Diabetes awareness campaigns never really caught my attention, but this one really touched me. It made it relatable and I even showed my grandmother”

– Focus group participant

“It was informative but entertaining at the same time. This is what happens in my culture – it was a relief to see what I experience with my family…is not an isolated experience.”

– Film screening attendee

80% of survey respondents said the short film increased their diabetes knowledge.