TN Health Chat to Pay Moms of Teens for Health-Related Facebook Engagement

Are you a mother of a daughter ages 14-17 and looking to make a little bit of extra money, all while improving communication and the general health of your daughter?

You might fit in perfectly with an online communication program called TN Health Chat, which is focused on teen health.

First, through the TN Health Chat website www.tnhealthchat.org, you can take a questionnaire and see if you qualify — specifically if you’re a Tennessee mother of a daughter in that age range. If you do, you’re given a baseline survey and asked to get your daughter to be involved. Then your daughter will be contacted and asked to fill out her own survey. The mother and the daughter will both be compensated for completing three surveys and [for the mother] participating in a closed Facebook group. healthchatmomDr. Katie Baker, an associate professor in East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health, is helping to lead the local charge in recruiting both mothers and their daughters for this project. She said the goal is to bring in 2,000 mothers and daughters.

“We’ve been testing this program with local moms over the past six months and we are now ready for moms to enroll,” Baker said. “The moms who have been a part of this program so far have really enjoyed it, calling it a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on teen health. They found it especially beneficial in helping them start conversations with their daughters about these topics. And for us, that’s the bottom line, to improve mother-daughter communication so that we may also improve health.”

With the help of a $3.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, split between ETSU, the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the research firm Klein Buendel Inc., the goal is to improve communication between Tennessee mothers and their daughters between the ages of 14-17.

Baker said that target audience is so important because research shows daughters that age often look up to their mothers — and their respective health habits — more so than their peers. If there’s an increase in communication about the issues that these young women will face, the public health outcomes could be much better.

Through a variety of posted articles, studies, infographs and general discussion and engagement in closed Facebook groups, mothers will have all the health-related resources they need to chat with their teen daughters.

Topics might include physical activity, nutrition, bullying, cancer prevention, vaccinations, mental health, tobacco, drug use and much more, which can sometimes become contentious topics of discussion. A full-time moderator will respond with those in the closed group and make sure the discussions stay in the realm of civil discourse.

Research showed Baker and her team that approximately 84 percent of mothers in the Appalachia area use Facebook, which makes it the best available vehicle for delivering this important information.

“Moms have a greater impact,” Baker said. “Daughters at that age are still listening to their moms, especially when it comes to health behaviors.”

Aside from the cash and the potentially better public health conclusions, another positive aspect of the project is that it doesn’t break the lives of the busy people who might get involved. The daily posted information will simply roll through a person’s respective Facebook news feed with all the other information they might see.

Optimally, Baker said a mother would read an article or get engaged in a chat about a topic and then discuss it with her daughter. Organizers of the project are looking for a diverse sampling of respondents and hope to not come across as being as “know-it-all” as they are important conversation starters.

She welcomes any and all church, sports or social groups with mothers and young women in that 14 to 17-year-old age range to get involved collectively.

More information can bet gathered by emailing [email protected] or calling 423-439-4788. There’s also a public Facebook page, “TN Health Chat,” where you can check out sample posts of what would be in each private group.

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