On Change to Chill, a new online resource for teens created by Minneapolis-based Allina Health, young people can learn how to meditate, practice guided imagery or live a more balanced life.
The site, launched this month, was inspired by findings of Allina’s tri-annual Community Health Needs Assessment, a federally mandated study designed to assess and address pressing community health needs.
“Every three years, as part of a required process to maintain our tax-exempt status, we survey community members about health problems that they are seeing and issues they are concerned about,” explained Susan Nygaard, RN, Allina Health’s manager of community health improvement. “We study our survey findings and look at state and local data to determine the top issues we need to focus on.”
In Allina’s latest assessment, mental health and obesity were seen as the most pressing health concerns in the state. The mental health of teenagers, as highlighted by a 2014 American Psychological Association report finding that American teens report stress at equal or higher levels to adults, was of particular concern, Nygaard said; Change to Chill is one of Allina’s responses to this issue.
Go where the teens are
Allina staffers decided that one of the best ways to educate teens about fighting stress was to do it online, in a format that they find comfortable and accessible. They also wanted the content to be useful.
“We met with teen focus groups and asked them about what causes stress for them,” Nygaard said. “Then we asked them what they would like to learn about addressing their stress.”
Because they wanted Change to Chill to include meaningful, helpful content, Nygaard and her colleagues consulted mental wellness experts from across Allina’s network of more than 90 clinics and 13 hospitals. Of particular assistance were practitioners from the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Allina’s integrative health program.
“I led a team that worked with the Penny George Institute,” Nygaard said. “I was able to tap into their psychologists and social workers.”
The mobile-friendly site is developed in a format emulating the popular site Buzzfeed, Nygaard said, with quizzes and lists and short videos.
“On the homepage, you can click on resources for parents, but the main catch point is the quiz, where you tell us about yourself. We want to hear from each individual youth what stress feels like to them. There are no right or wrong answers. Once you answer the questions, the site customizes itself and guides the user to where they’d benefit best on the website.”
Visitors’ quiz answers are confidential, Nygaard said. Once a visitor navigates away from the URL, all answers are wiped out. They are only good for one visit, temporarily customizing to each user.
“We are not saving the data,” she said. “The quiz is just of a way for them to say, ‘This is how I feel. This is how stress affects me,’ and for us to suggest strategies for coping with their particular stressors.”
Free for all
What makes Change to Chill unique from other resources for teens coping with stress? Nygaard said that the site’s prevention-based model was created in the hope that teens facing everyday stressors like the crazy jumble of school, homework, extracurricular activities and work can use it to find coping mechanisms that can help lower stress levels before they get out of hand.
“It is meant to be a resource for all teens who are dealing with stress in general,” Nygaard said. “We want to show them how to slow down and deal with stress now before it becomes a clinical diagnosis. As far as we know, other health systems don’t offer something like this. Also, it’s free of charge. We want this to be a proactive resource that’s available to everybody.”
Adding to the site’s accessibility, there is also the idea that it could be used in middle- or high-school health classes. Nygaard said she is in the process of reaching out to community centers, church youth groups and other groups, including the Girl Scouts.
“The website is built with activities that can be printed out and done in written form, or be used on a classroom computer or iPad,” she said. “Activities can be completed individually or in groups, say by watching a short video on mediation.”
Teens visiting the site can enter The Chiller Challenge, a contest where they can create their own image or short video that depicts their favorite “chillers,” or ways they relax and get away from stress. Each month Allina will select 10 chiller winners, who will receive a $25 gift card. The monthly grand-prize winner will have his or her chill featured on the website and receive a prize pack. The site features many sample images that visitors can view for inspiration.
The site, which has no promotion budget, has already seen some traffic, Nygaard said. She’s hoping that more young people will find out through word of mouth, or at school or in community groups.
“We’ve already had teens submit for the contest,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun to see their submissions.”