This is the first in a series of blogs based on recent keynote seminars organized by the Westminster Media Forums and Westminster Health Forums. Our aim is to explore the potential role of the digital and mobile news media for cost effective public health campaigns and safe messages, tailored for the needs of different age groups.

On 13th  September 2016,  I attended the  “Digital news media: content strategies, monetisation, challenges and  priorities for regulation” hosted at the grand setting of theRoyal Over-Seas League, London. The who’s who of the  media world, the regulators and many more were there, and the  BBC, BT, O2, Arqiva, KPMG and ISBA as the core sponsors.

The speakers presented insightful analysis of the emerging trends in a rapidly changing landscape, and its impact on people’s behavior. I couldn’t possibly do justice to all the  presentations in this short post. But, I have focused on two presentations that can offer possible solutions for the delivery of effective public health messages. This is what Stephen Hull, editor in chief, Huffington Post UK said about ‘What’s Working’:

 “Last year the Huffington Post launched globally an initiative called What’s Working, and at the heart of that is a simple mission which I believe makes our approach to news really different. We talk about solutions, not just problems.  Since then What’s Working has developed into a core philosophy and it now guides how we think about stories across all our editorial teams every day. I will give you one example of how it works. 

That is What’s Working,reporting solutions,not just problemsStephen Hull,Editor in Chief,The Huffington Post UK

 When the new legislation was  introduced in 2015 to pay 5p for plastic bags, it was aimed at cutting waste, litter and is  environment  friendly.  But one national title wrote it up as the plastic bag madness and described it as a bureaucratic nightmare.

 The Huffington Post followed it up very differently, wrote about the plastic bag charges, which fund charities, help projects around England and is good for the  environment.In July of this year -2016, a report came out which revealed that just six months after the new law was introduced, the British people are  now on track to use 6 billion  fewer  plastic bags. The scheme has been a success, “That’s What’s Working, reporting solutions, not just problems". The plastic bag story is in fact a public health and environmental message, with important lessons for public health care providers.

James Montgomery, Director of Digital Development “Project Newstream: BBC news content for the Smartphone era" delivered a cogent analysis and this is what he said:

“What is it? It’s thinking about how we adapt our storytelling in video for the Smartphone age. And it’s important, I think, for three reasons”.

Like most publishers, the majority of the BBC’s online traffic now comes via mobile - about 60% on average, but after a really big news event like the referendum or the Paris terror attacks it can go up to 80% or more.

The BBC have an imperative to remain relevant to younger customersJames Montgomery,BBC Director of Digital Development

Secondly, online video consumption is growing. There’s a difference of opinion about how fast and why, but it is going up and I think that on the long view that’s fundamentally down to the fact that the devices are better, connectivity is more ubiquitous and data charges are falling - so you can do things on the internet today that  just didn’t really work 10 years ago, one of which is video.

Thirdly, the BBC, have an imperative to remain relevant to younger consumers. Their Smartphone is typically their primary, and in some cases their only source of news. If it doesn’t work on a Smartphone, it’s not going to work with that audience". 

The digital and mobile media offer possibilities for safe and cost effective public health messages and e-health for primary care services. The combination of  mature and low cost technologies, the extensive use of mobile devices and the ubiquitous internet connectivity,can offer solutions to raise awareness deliver cost effective and safe public health messages,  from children dental decay, lower sugar intake, obesity and many more.

Public Service Media in the UK have the expertise and resources to support some of the national oral health campaigns and we hope they can take the lead.