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AHS considering hiring social media influencers to help with advertising


Alberta Health Services (AHS) is considering hiring social media influencers to help with its advertising.

The idea is to raise awareness about various health topics.

In a now-deleted post on influencer platform Embold, AHS said it was looking to hire influencers for a campaign called Plan Your Health 2024.

It wanted influencers to educate people about how to treat their child at home rather than the emergency room, fitness, quitting smoking and lung cancer screening, as well as Health Link 811.

AHS now tells CTV News it was posted “erroneously” and was “premature.” However, it does confirm that it has been researching the idea of recruiting influencers.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency physician at Royal Alexandra and Stollery Children’s Hospitals in Edmonton, says it’s something AHS should move forward with.

“Every avenue available to try to get health information that’s credible out to people needs to be used,” she said.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen such a massive rise in misinformation in the world of media and social media. And so, it’s so important to now, in particular, have people who have appropriate training and credentials to be out there to try to cut through that noise of misinformation.”

In her free time, Mithani posts informational health videos for her 15,000 Instagram followers.

The goal is to help people stay out of the emergency room.

“At a time where the emergency departments in the entire province, the entire country, are very stressed, I decided to use my expertise and use my platform on social media to arm people with the information they need to decide, ‘Is this something I can manage at home? Can I call 811 for this?’” she said.

Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary, agrees that health organizations should look at innovative ways to get critical information out to the public.

“It is the 21st century and I think the better we are at reaching people where they actually are, the more effective we’ll be at getting people healthier,” he said.

Hu already has some experience doing this. He launched 19 to Zero, a not-for-profit coalition of public health experts, academics, marketers and behavioural scientists, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group works to improve people’s health by changing their behaviour around things like vaccine uptake and cancer screening.

“We have done a number of campaigns. Some are sort of mainstream media, like TV and radio, some are very social media-related. I love seeing health do more of this because I think that traditional messaging doesn’t always work or is insufficient,” Hu said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation questions how much it would cost AHS to hire influencers.

“No matter how big or how well paid our government employees are, they still manage to take taxpayers’ money and fling it out the door to other people,” said Kris Sims, the Alberta director for the federation.

“In this case, we’re not convinced that influencers are the answer when it comes to people making good healthcare choices.”

AHS says at this time, nothing has been confirmed and no influencers have been retained. Top Stories

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