If you were able to attend ASHA’s 90th Annual School Health Conference last week in Baltimore, then you probably already know the exciting news about ASHA’s Networking Communities. If not, then I’m here to fill you in on what hopefully won’t be a secret for long. The ASHA conference has always been a great opportunity to network and share ideas with other school health professionals. But these days, more and more professionals are finding it difficult to attend conferences and other professional development opportunities.
Increasingly, people are turning to social media and other sources to network with their colleagues from around the country and gain new information about emerging trends in the field. In fact, did you know that ASHA’s 2016 conference hashtag (#SchoolHealth16) garnered nearly 215,000 impressions on Twitter? The only response I have to that is WOW! It is clear that there is great interest and passion in the school health community, even if everyone in our community can’t come together in person.
ASHA’s virtual Networking Communities exist to support this trend by linking school health professionals, parents, families, and members of the community with digital content around the same four tracks offered at ASHA’s annual conference. But how, you ask? It’s all about the #hashtag! In social media terms a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the pound or hash symbol (#). Social media sites like Twitter sort and catalog all the content linked to a specific hashtag which is then visible through the hashtag feed. Now, anyone interested in the topic can easily access, browse through the information, and contribute to the ongoing discussion.
Currently, ASHA supports four Networking Community themes. Each theme represents a segment of the school health profession, such as teachers, nurses, and school health coordinators; or a particular aspect of school health like research, or programs and services. Last week, we unveiled new hashtags for each community, they are:
- Administration, Coordination & Leadership (#ashaLead)
- Programs & Services (#ashaPrograms)
- Research & Emerging Issues (#ashaResearch)
- Teaching & Learning (#ashaTeach)
We invite you to use these hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites as a way to join the conversation. To really kick this off, we’re going to start using the new hashtags this week by tweeting about the nine research articles in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of School Health (JOSH). Coincidently, did you know that you can sign up to ditch the hardcopy and get JOSH entirely online? Okay, maybe you knew that, but did you also know there is a free JOSH app you can use to access articles anytime from your Apple devices? Pretty cool, huh? Search for the app today in the Apple store. The app will be available for Google devices at a later date.
In the coming weeks, you’ll see ASHA pushing content connected to the hashtags in our weekly School Health Action eNewsletter and Comprehensive Health Education Network (CHEN) emails. We’ll also be posting hashtagged news, announcements, discussion starters, and other information right here in the ASHA blog. This is just the beginning, there is so much more ahead for Networking Communities and we’re excited that you are in on the action. Please join the conversation! You can start by tweeting @ASHAnews using the new hashtags or sharing your thoughts about Networking Communities in the comments section below.