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For the first time in more than 60 years, baby boomers are no longer the most-represented age in America. Millennials are.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more 22-year-olds than any other age group in 2012 – followed by 23- and 21-year-olds. The health and healthcare concerns associated with a Boomer-heavy population have long been in the limelight, but recently there has been a noticeable shift toward the prevention of chronic conditions in the younger generation.

Chronic conditions like heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity and respiratory diseases plague our nation with more than half of adults reporting the presence of one or more chronic conditions. And while these conditions represent some of the most prevalent and costly, they are also some of the most preventable through health living, early detection and effective management of existing conditions.

How do we reach the approximately 40 million Millennials and empower them to take charge of their health to prevent chronic diseases? The easy answer is online. The more complicated answer is that it requires research and creativity. For instance, we know that more than 81% of Millennials are on Facebook. The Internet is the main source of news for 71% of adults age 18-29. A survey shared at this year’s South by Southwest also showed that Millennials trust user-generated content (UGC) 50% more than traditional media and also find UGC to be 35% more memorable.

Our challenge is not only how we reach the younger generation but also how we can better engage and influence them by sharing trusted, credible information while maintaining authenticity and control of content in a highly regulated environment. Conversations with a few people in the target population revealed that health campaigns are not being tuned out:

  • “The campaign about mothers not vaccinating their children resonated with me. It upset me to see the outbreaks of preventable diseases in NYC. This has caused me to read more research on health ‘hot’ topics so, when opportunities arise, I share backed information on Facebook so I can help spread real news about current public health topics.” – Pam W.
  • “I think the FORCE campaign is both informative and engaging. It was different because it used social media so I heard about it! I don’t have a TV. I started following FORCE on Facebook and sharing their posts. I thought my friends would think it was both cool and important.” – Clare F.
  • “Stand-up comedian Zach Galifanakis interviewed President Obama on Between Two Ferns to get people motivated to sign up for healthcare insurance. It used humor and a celebrity to reach Millennials using an Internet-based comedy show.” – Sarah P.

Engaging younger generations in their health is far from impossible – especially if we apply learnings and insights from recent campaigns, which have successfully motivated Millennials to take action.

 

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