Jess Gordon is a Masters of Journalism student with a passion for communicating to diverse audiences about the things she cares about -- geriatric health and wellbeing, workers' rights, and of course, climate change. She is also CAHA's social media volunteer. Jess shares 3 tips for health professionals for being on Twitter.
I’m Jess, CAHA’s social media volunteer. The reason that I volunteer with CAHA is simple: I, like many young people, am gravely concerned about the decades that lie before us. The evidence is indisputable: we are in the midst of a climate disaster. Scientists have been begging governments for years to acknowledge the disaster unfolding, but emissions keep rising. As somebody down the ‘Save the Planet’ rabbithole, I needed to find a way to commit to the movement and use my natural ‘gift of the gab’.
Since volunteering at CAHA, I've realised how injurious climate change is to human health, beginning in utero. What has jolted me the most is the realisation that a lot of the health impacts of climate change occur subtly over years. For example, I knew that air pollution was bad for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions. But it certainly did not occur to me that there is a link between air pollution and some non-communicable diseases like stroke, heart disease, lung disease and cancer.
I think this complacency comes from three places:
- Many people are wholly unaware of what climate change means for their health directly
- It is "intangible" and hard to see, making it easy to detach from
The information published in health and medical journals isn’t always made accessible to the wider public, nor is it digestible
You can make a difference
This is where health professionals (both current and future) can have an enormous impact. The medical community is highly trusted -- much more so than governments and politicians (where most people hear about climate change). Most people feel that when a health professional is offering them health advice that there is no hidden agenda and that this advice is being offered in their best interest. That is why it is so important that the health sector speak out about climate change, and that we amplify these voices on social media.
I recently attended a social media training workshop hosted by the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. Judging by the turnout, there are many passionate healthcare workers across the world who are eager to spread the message far and wide. Many attendees had no presence online, and had just created Twitter accounts for the training. Those not on Twitter might think it is a trivial platform for mundane updates on people’s haircuts or the sole domain for brutal trolling. Instead, Twitter has become a hub of 24/7 news and information (and Tweets can now be up to 250 characters) and can inform and influence potential allies. We want to amplify compelling climate / health messages on this platform.
Getting on Twitter
If you’re a health professional who is thinking about getting on Twitter to talk about climate and health, here is the Twitter toolkit put together by the experts.
In addition, I have three key takeaways:
It’s important to be authentic, clear and stick to your values. So if you are presenting yourself as a health professional online, it’s important to share health-focused content. This means sharing content (research, articles, reports etc) that reflect how climate change is detrimental to human health, or at least sharing articles. You are encouraged to share your professional opinion about the implications of climate change for human health.
That being said, audiences also love a bit of the unexpected. If you’re a cardiac surgeon with a passion for bird photography, show your audience! It will help you stand out, be authentic, and build trust with your audience.
Hope is important
It is crucial to be mindful of the nature of the content you’re sharing. For many, climate change is scary and can create fear. Climate anxiety is real. Although it is important to build awareness of the reality of climate change, it is equally important to maintain hope that there is still are many reasons to act.
So if something has brightened your day, share it! This could be anything: the family dog with a dreadful haircut or a viral TikTok of some guy on a skateboard drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Whilst primarily your objective is to be an advocate, there is always space to share joy.
Connect with people with similar values
Build a following of people with values that reflect your own. Take some time to look for the accounts which reflect and build on your perspectives to build a following which will amplify your work. A simple way to do this is to look through hashtags relevant to the content that you will be delivering. Follow them, like and Retweet their posts and Tweet them back! Their replies to you are visible to their followers, so that is an easy way to begin to get noticed. Your Twitter following is public, so if you are followed by other trusted voices, this adds to your credibility. Why not start by following the Climate and Health Alliance?
Here is Jess with a cute dog -- a great example of authentic and universally engaging content. Everyone loves dogs. You can follow Jess on Twitter here.