My Internship: Promoting Healthy Sexuality through Social Media

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By Alex Turner

This summer was an incredibly busy time for me, but I certainly enjoyed working on the HOPE Project. My primary area of interest is health communication, specifically tailoring messages to help people decide to change their behavior on their own. This is especially relevant to safer sex practices.

One of my goals for this summer was to build my health communication skills through creating a variety of communication materials for HOPE. I worked on this goal through projects that range from an academic journal article to daily Facebook updates.  It helped me become more versatile as a writer and communicator.

Part of my work here was to update the HOPE intervention website and add content to it that is relevant to young adults in Flint. Blogging about safer sex and HIV/STIs certainly made my internet search history rather interesting. I’m not sure what my co-workers thought when they saw my screen!!

Probably one of my favorite things that I worked on was the new social media contest scheduled to launch this fall. Working with social media is challenging because creating a social media platform doesn’t mean that our focus population will use it. Our solution is to bring HOPE Party participants and members of the community to the site through a social media contest to increase the reach of the project and user engagement. Of course we’re offering prizes too! I feel that I made a real impact on this project by generating ideas and interacting with our community partner and advisory group members to create an innovative way of promoting safer sex methods. We will launch the social media contest this fall, and I look forward to watching the popularity of the website and Facebook page grow.

During my time at the PRC/MI, I’ve learned three main lessons. First, patience. As a grad student I have a demanding schedule, which means that I often work quickly to finish assignments. Implementing changes to a project in an academic community partnership was slower than I expected. However, these changes produced results because the group utilized thoughtful decision making and kept open lines of communication. Second, I learned that what we say and how we say it matters. To be an effective communicator, I learned the importance of listening and reflecting on what a peer, coworker, or community partner says. I became more cognizant of how I communicated verbally and on paper. Finally, I learned the value of leaving my cubicle. This lesson is two-fold. A more enriching experience required that I leave the office and interact with our community partner and also physically leave my desk to talk with people around the office. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with my fellow interns, plus I always got a nice stretch. 

Alex Turner is a rising second year MPH candidate in the Health Behavior & Health Education department at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. This summer she spent her time at the Prevention Research Center of Michigan as an intern for the HOPE Project and had an additional internship with the UM Risk Science Center. In her spare time, Alex enjoys playing volleyball, running obstacle course races, baking, and going to the movies.