Sara Lamberson: Using Health Communication to Advocate for Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Sara Lamberson, Corporate Communications Specialist at South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign), strives to manage her organization’s brand by applying her background in integrated marketing and health communications.
Lamberson completed the Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communication and received a Masters in Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina (USC) in May 2013. Soon after graduation, she was hired as a full-time employee at SC Campaign, where her responsibilities include managing the corporate brand by updating content on the corporate website, developing and distributing publications, writing press releases and contacting media outlets. Lamberson also manages SC Campaign’s social media sites and blog.
“I use what I have learned in the Health Communication Certificate program day in and day out,” Lamberson said. “I know I can’t communicate with a parent or a young person the same way I would communicate with a health professional.”
Health communication is a vital part of Lamberson’s job. She uses communication strategies such as press releases, publications, posters, and brochures, all to effectively reach SC Campaign’s numerous, unique audiences.
“I think the most important thing I do involving health communication is tailoring health messages for different audiences from government officials to youth,” Lamberson said.
Although Lamberson has always had a passion for nutrition and fitness, she decided to pursue USC’s Graduate Certificate in Health Communication after working with Dr. Andrea Tanner, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Director of the Science and Health Communication Research Group, through a graduate assistantship. She realized taking courses in public health and health communication would help her effectively communicate in a health-related field.
“Before I begin writing, whether it’s for a social media post for youth, a publication about contraception for parents or a web article for youth-serving professionals, I consider my audience first,” Lamberson said. “I must always modify the message to fit the audience.”
While taking classes, Lamberson learned how to develop a health-related campaign. She had previous experience in marketing, but soon learned that a health-related campaign involves steps such as identifying behavioral and environmental risk factors, setting objectives for behavior change and evaluating implementation. This knowledge is particularly useful, in Lamberson’s current job, where she must produce targeted teen pregnancy prevention publications to diverse audiences.
“I developed a brochure for parents focused on talking to their teen daughter about the option of using long-acting reversible contraception (LARC),” she said. “This brochure does not contain medical jargon, but is easy to understand for parents who may have never heard of LARC before.”
The Health Communication Certificate program also helped Lamberson get ahead in a very direct way. She began working at SC Campaign as the Health Communication Graduate Assistant through her practicum work, a requirement for the Health Communication Certificate program. She obtained this practicum position by reaching out to Doug Taylor, Chief Program Officer of SC Campaign, who made a presentation in one of her public health classes. After class, Lamberson emailed Taylor, and she was brought her in for an interview.
“I would not be a full-time staff member if I had not been inspired by Doug’s presentation and reached out to him about a potential graduate assisantship,” she said.
Lamberson said she took a course in Applied Health Communication, taught by Dr. Daniela Friedman, an associate professor in the Department of Health, Education, and Behavior and Admissions Chair for USC’s Health Communication Certificate, and it proved to be one of the most rewarding classes in the program. She also said the various backgrounds of her classmates, from communications to social work, led to great discussion with many points of view represented. This course contributed to applicable topics in social media that would later become useful in her job managing social media and brand management at SC Campaign.
“The courses I took for the Graduate Certificate in Health Communication helped me to feel more comfortable working alongside public health experts in the field,” said Lamberson. “I feel more confident in my ability to translate content into targeted messaging for our various audiences.”
Sara Grace Bailey is a first year graduate student for the Masters of Mass Communication program, with an emphasis in Integrated Communications. She is from Lancaster, South Carolina and received her undergraduate degree from Clemson University in May 2013. Bailey received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in Writing and Publication Studies. An aspiring communications coordinator in the health field, Bailey is a graduate assistant for the Science and Health Communication initiative.
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