NAMI targets black community with health program

ARLINGTON, VA: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) created an interactive, online education program aimed at black Americans with mental illness.

ARLINGTON, VA: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) created an interactive, online education program aimed at black Americans with mental illness.

The “Hearts and Minds” program aims to provide people with mental illness with information about how to minimize and manage associated health risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity. It is specifically targeted at black adults.

The initiative is funded by OptumHealth Public Sector, a division of UnitedHealthcare, and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

“The African-American community already has more pronounced health risks than the general population, so we felt it was important to push this information out and spark a dialogue in that community,” said Katrina Gay, director of communications for NAMI.

The nonprofit added a section to its Web site, where visitors can join discussion groups, read testimonials, and download PDFs of fact sheets and exercise journals.

While the Web page launched in mid-February, NAMI started promoting it to the black community March 18, first with a press release and local media outreach. It also used NAMI's Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts to promote the program.

“Our mantra is knowledge is power, so our Web site lays out the facts regarding health risks of mental illness,” said Gay. “We were real intentional to not say to people, ‘Because we said so'. We provide links to studies and other organizations and portals that have additional resources, so that the campaign isn't just about us.”

NAMI is close to signing a partnership with Black Entertainment Television (BET), which will be hosting community events primarily in the South this summer, said Gay. It is also conducting outreach to black sororities and fraternities.

The nonprofit has coordinated outreach with its 1,100 state and local affiliates, which are using the site to supplement existing resources. The PDFs allow the affiliates, as well as other stakeholders, to provide hard copies of the materials.

The budget for the "Hearts and Minds" initiative, including the overall development of the program as well as PR, is $175,000, said Gay. PR is handled in-house.

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