Canadian Hemophilia Society taps Wattpad to reach young women

A new medium for a first-of-its-kind public health outreach

It’s not often a chick-lit heroine is diagnosed with a bleeding disorder by her dashing love interest. But this is the truly novel approach being taken by the Canadian Hemophilia Society in order to rewrite the notion that bleeding conditions have to be hugely life-altering and embarrassing.

The e-novella, A-Negative, launched this week and tells the story of Ashley, a girl who falls for the handsome doctor in town, but is unknowingly living with von Willebrand disease.

It’s the first public health tool of its kind – serious information injected right into a harlequin-style novel executed on a medium young people are accessing in huge numbers, Wattpad.

Wattpad, a Toronto start-up, is a self-publishing tool that gives people around the world the ability to read millions of stories for free or write and share their own from any device.

In 2013, Wattpad’s users – most of whom are under 25 – spent more than 41 billion minutes on the platform.

Deborah Franz Currie, national director of resource development at the CHS, said the society wanted to start a conversation among young women in particular about their bleeding and what is normal. The CHS estimates that nine out of 10 women with bleeding disorders remain undiagnosed.

“We want to get them thinking and discussing, not merely hit them over the head with a health message,” she said. “By using a platform they already use, there is an opportunity to communicate directly with our target audience and introduce them to a health message in a subtle and exciting way.”

Franz Currie said a traditional campaigning would simply be a a pamphlet or other material saying “here are the symptoms of bleeding disorders.”

By using one of the most read authors on Wattpad, L.D. Crichton, the CHS is immediately tapping into her 30,000 followers and the platform’s wider audience.

The campaign was announced May 12 at the World Federation of Hemophilia 2014 World Congress held in Melbourne, Australia, which has a brand new Twitter handle. “We are leveraging the platform and the author to help spread the word in conjunction with a PR and social media push through our newly established Twitter handle @CODErougeCA,” Franz Currie said.

“Through blogposts, tweets, Facebook posts and e-blasts sent by both the CHS and the author, we are hoping to gain even more momentum as the words spreads on this innovative approach to raising awareness.”

The idea for the e-novella was developed by Toronto agency Public Inc. which worked directly with the author, Wattpad and a CHS advisory panel that was working with a limited budget.

A Negative is our first foray into a larger scale public awareness and social media campaign targeted at young women. Our national office and 10 chapters across the country run awareness campaigns in their local communities throughout the year, typically in connection to World Hemophilia Day in April,” Franz Currie added.

This story was updated at 12:19 p.m. on May 14, 2014.

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