case study

Teaching Parents About Children’s Pain Through Social Media

A doctor is giving a vaccine to a young girl.

The Challenge

Fewer than 5 percent of children receive any kind of pain relief during routine immunizations, even though research shows that there are simple, no-cost solutions that work. That’s according to Christine Chambers, PhD, a clinical psychologist, researcher and professor of pediatrics at the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research in Halifax, Canada. Dr. Chambers was also part of the Mayday Pain & Society Fellowship, a program supported by the Mayday Fund—a private foundation dedicated to reducing human suffering in pain. As a Mayday Fellow, Dr. Chambers participated in a Burness-developed and -led intensive media and policy workshop that included training on how to use Twitter and other forms of social media, a form of advocacy that she once ignored.

Our Approach

Dr. Chambers wanted to use social media to reach parents directly with evidence-based information about managing children’s pain. Burness helped her develop and produce a fun, lighthearted YouTube video for parents called It Doesn’t Have to Hurt, which offered them simple tips to help navigate doctor visits. We developed an initial promotion plan that also called on Dr. Chambers to use Twitter to disseminate the video.

In addition, Burness developed a two-part Twitter webinar to follow up on what Dr. Chambers learned during the Mayday Fellowship training workshop. Through the webinars, we provided in-depth instruction on using Twitter to track issues, connect with peers and promote her work and research.

Results and Impact

One year after its release, over 80,000 people have viewed the YouTube video—by far surpassing her goal of 10,000 views. Much of this exposure is due to Dr. Chambers’ proactiveness on Twitter. Once reluctant to use this medium, she now has embraced Twitter and has actively tweeted or re-tweeted more than 2,600 times in a matter of months. In the beginning, many of those tweets were targeted to individuals and organizations she wanted to view the YouTube video. Eventually, her followers grew to more than 1,100, including many influential health care reporters and bloggers, professional pain and pediatric organizations, parent and patient groups, peers and others.

Prominent media outlets in Canada have found her on Twitter and have asked to interview her multiple times, including CBC News, CBC Radio and the Globe and Mail—which resulted from her tweeting about a recent research article to the reporter. In fact, she has built such a credible reputation on Twitter that some reporters are following her and have retweeted her.

Parents Canada magazine, Canada’s oldest and largest parenting publication, asked Dr. Chambers to do anexpert advice column for an upcoming issue. She has also built relationships through Twitter with key parenting blogs, including the Yummy Mummy Club—a national, award-winning online magazine written by moms, for moms. Other organizations have contacted Dr. Chambers via Twitter to blog for them after seeing her tweets about the video or other pain research, such as the Australian Pain Society and the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Chambers even live-tweeted for the first time at a Canadian Pain Society conference, a skill Burness taught her, and was identified as one of the “top influencers” at the 2014 IASP World Congress on Pain conference because of her live tweets. After presenting at a TEDx conference on her video and pain research, she tweeted out soundbites from her presentation, which attracted more Twitter followers and attention to the issue.

In addition, she has used Twitter to identify co-investigators for grants, to recruit research participants for her studies, and to share results from recently published papers, among other efforts.

In her own words, Dr. Chambers is surprised at how much impact Twitter has helped generate. “These contacts and relationships all developed because of my tweeting this year! I was following them, they started following me, etc. I couldn’t even get responses from these major media outlets last year to promote my YouTube video until we developed relationships over Twitter. The Mayday Fellowship—and learning about Twitter—has truly shaped my work and taken it in an exciting new direction.”

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