Members of the American College of Chest Physicians were able to screen the lung health of more than 300 people in four hours during Phoenix Lung Health Day in August. This feat was made possible by a multifaceted media campaign that resulted in more than 28 million media mentions. One of them, a television interview with an ACCP physician on lung health screening, resulted not just in an on-air spirometry test on the Phoenix news anchor, but also got the attention of Olympic gold-medal swimmer Breeja Larson, who was on the set for a later interview and decided she’d like to get tested too. “When someone who is obviously healthy like that shows that she values getting checked, it helps others see the value in it too,” says ACCP CEO and Executive Vice President Paul Markowski, CAE.

It can be difficult to get a big turnout for public-facing events such as this one, but ACCP has been getting a lot of practice with promotion with this and other events it has been holding in partnership with The CHEST Foundation’s OneBreath initiative. Sometimes it’s just luck, as was the case with getting the Olympian to participate, but according to Markowski, the success of these programs mostly comes from research, hard work, and the passion members have for lung screening and raising awareness of overlooked lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it usually turns out to be a pretty successful event,” says Markowski. He adds, “When our members talk from the heart, the media wants to grab onto it.”

Know Your Target Demographics

The ACCP team begins by thoroughly researching the demographics and other specifics about the markets in which the activity is to be held. In the case of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, the combination of often poor air quality and a large number of people who are underserved in their healthcare made it a good choice. About two weeks prior to the event, ACCP contacted the local media to explain what they were doing and why, the number of people they expected to attract, and the local luminaries who planned to participate—in this case, local government officials, Arizona State Rep. Ruben Gallego, and City of Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela made appearances to support the community initiative.

Because a large portion of the demographic they were trying to reach was Hispanic, ACCP reached out to not just The Arizona Republic, Yahoo!, and local TV channel KTVK, but also to Univision, Telemundo-TV, La Voz, Prensa Hispana, and a local Spanish radio station. The clinicians at the event also made sure they could accommodate the Hispanic community by offering Spanish materials, screeners, and translators.  They also reached out via social media because, Markowski says, “right now you have to send your message through all the media platforms, from e-newsletters, to fax, to print paper, and social media. You have to give everyone—whether they’re physicians, allied healthcare providers, patients, or patients’ family members—an easy way to connect and get education.”

The event was held at a downtown food market, and augmented when ACCP and OneBreath volunteers presented The CHEST Foundation’s “Lung Lessonssm” program to 120 kids at a local elementary school.

Expanding Public Outreach Activities

While the organization has historically offered programs on lung health and smoking prevention to elementary through high school students, it has been expanding its outreach efforts in recent years, says Markowski. Spirometry testing is an easy tool ACCP physician members can use to engage with and inform the public on lung health matters.

While ACCP does do outreach programs at its annual conference and at its other large educational activities, those generally are held in destinations that can handle an influx of thousands of physicians coming for the main show. Smaller cities and towns generally aren’t options. “Our goal is to go to areas and capture the attention of people who might not otherwise have access to information about lung health,” says Markowski. That’s why this year it expanded the ACCP board of regents meeting from twice a year to six annually, both to be able to meet with members whom they might not otherwise see face to face, and to provide community outreach in new areas.

In addition to a “fun run” at its annual meeting, it offers tool kits and information pieces on its Web site that its “ambassadors”—spouses, family members, and other individuals who have an interest in lung health—can download, and it holds “countless” educational public-facing events, especially for schoolchildren. This year it also joined OneBreath®, the COPD Alliance, and thousands of other respiratory organizations worldwide to promote World Spirometry Day. Held June 27, the ACCP and local partners provided lung screening and information in Chicago. Other organizations held similar screening and consultations around the world. Screening continued after the official date as well. “The idea was to spread the information and have people take the test, then feed the information into one global Web site,” says Markowsi.

As to the events it is holding in conjunction with its board of regents meetings, he says, “As we compile these examples, it will only help us better understand the markets we want to go to, and do a better job of targeting where the underserved needs and educational barriers are. The more we’ve done this, and the more success we’ve had, and the more varied we make our outreach, the more it has energized our board members, committee members, and physicians.”