In partnership with the PRC/MI and YOUR Center, the Flint Urban League was granted a contract to help promote quality HIV/AIDS information in Flint and Genesee County.
The aim of the Peer Health Information Mentors Project (PHIM) was to provide training and develop resources within the Flint Urban League to better contribute to health improvement in Genesee County. The specific goals of Peer Health Information Mentors Project are to: 1) increase access and use of HIV/AIDS information resources among 18-24 year olds in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan, and 2) increase health information literacy in order to better prepare our community to be more effective consumers of health information online. A key aspect of this work involved making quality HIV/STI prevention information meaningful and appealing to young adults and their peers through incorporation of local issues and resources, personal stories and commentary.
To accomplish these goals, we used a peer health educator model. We trained 6-8 PHIMs who learned methods and strategies for finding quality health information online and applied that knowledge through peer-led workshops and online through existing social media websites (including HOPE). The Pew Internet study reports that 93% of teens and young adults (13-24 years) use a social networking website such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter (Pew, 2009). Focus groups conducted by our research partners among this age group revealed that these sites are popular for communicating and sharing information within Flint as well (Veinot, 2010). This provides an ideal opportunity to build on traditional information dissemination efforts related to HIV/AIDS and reach a broader group of young adults that may not be able or willing to access traditional resources.
The training for the PHIMs will include to traditional website evaluation criteria, as well as the application of these criteria to information found through social media websites and peer to peer health websites, such as Patients Like Me. The PHIMs will also work together to develop peer led discussions (trainings) to teach other youth and young adults best practices for searching the online environment for health information and promote HIV/AIDS resources in the community. The partners will also work with the PHIMs to develop resource guides, both print and electronic, that will provide information about searching for HIV/AIDS information online and using NLM resources such as PubMed and MedlinePlus.