Our work with the Minnesota Department of Health
A year ago we shared the story of our work with the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, and the challenge we surmounted in relating to a young, diverse audience.
This year, another project with the state has us learning our audience’s language in a much more literal sense. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has partnered with Russell Herder for its ongoing “Small Decisions Matter” campaign on curbing diabetes in underserved populations. In this case, our audiences include both the Lao and the Latino communities in the Twin Cities alongside our NGO partners; the Lao Center and Comunidades Latinos Unidos En Servicio (CLUES).
The Lao population in Minnesota has its origins in a mass exodus of refugees from Southeast Asia in the unrest that followed the Vietnam War. In part because of that cultural trauma, the Lao community experiences a higher than average likelihood of diabetes.
Another factor in this prevalence of diabetes among the Lao population is the language barrier between them and many resources that could help, including health care providers. Russell Herder aimed to carefully consider and work with this language barrier when creating a video that summarized a healthy eating event at the center. Our team asked, how can we create a compelling video that most effectively communicates the message of those on camera?
The answer was simple, and a key approach to accurate representation in the work we do at Russell Herder: co-creation. Co-creation is when our client works hand-in-hand with our teams in as many steps of the content creation process as they wish. In this case, the Lao Center staff themselves provided the translation, which not only fostered a more efficient creative process, but also gave our client a hand on the steering wheel for the project.
The CLUES diabetes video project involved a similar collaborative approach. We crafted scripts with cultural relevance to Latino people in mind, and that required cooperation with CLUES from start to finish. The filming will take place with a director from the community, guiding talent comprised of CLUES staff, on location at the CLUES campus in Saint Paul. The dialogue references foods that evoke tradition among the Latino community. It is our hope the end result will be one that CLUES can be proud of.
Our work with MDH on diabetes prevention also extends to the African American community in the Twin Cities, with our outreach facilitated by the Hue-Man Group. Although it doesn’t require translation, it does require sensitivity to the specific needs of a community that has long been underserved. Similar to the Lao Center and CLUES, our work has involved co-creation from the start as we work to create a web page and other media for Hue-Man that is unique to Black culture yet still in keeping with MDH’s overall messaging goals: that when it comes to our health, Small Decisions Matter.
Our work as an agency frequently calls upon our talent as storytellers. Yet, we must be willing to make space for marginalized groups to help tell their own story when it comes to challenges facing their community. The struggle against diabetes exemplifies this – because of the void where cultural understanding should be, many groups feel isolated from the health care they deserve. The mission of Russell Herder to do “work that matters” often means working closely with those who deserve more.