Communication ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-1-2017


This dissertation explains the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating a two-tiered health campaign on social media and in a rural New Mexico high school. The Choose H2O Challenge was an 8-week contest to engage youth in examining their beverage consumption habits, to increase awareness about the health risks of sugary beverages, the benefits of water, and the influence of beverage marketing on their choices. The goals were to change the culture of beverage consumption at the school by making it fun to drink more water, and to encourage teens to become health messengers to their families and friends. This project is innovative because it is one of the first to study using social media as the primary venue to connect with youth for health messaging. It is also one of the only projects to study teens as family health messengers.

This dissertation sought to answer questions surrounding how a novel campaign such as this can be effective at achieving these dual goals. It asked what elements were critical, what barriers and facilitators influenced success, and what students need to be able to promote change for others in their lives. The data were collected from student Facebook posts, student projects, school water fountain observations, and follow-up interviews with participating and non-participating students and staff to attempt to answer these questions. The main barriers identified were limited internet and Facebook access, limited teacher engagement, and competing student priorities. The campaign facilitators were using Facebook to implement a contest-oriented challenge complete with points and prizes, the in-person activities that engaged students to get online, and the opportunities for students to be content creators themselves. The campaign reach and engagement were promising, reaching 42.4% of students at the school, and increasing water bottle usage at school by 42.8%. The interviews with participating and non-participating students, and staff indicated that all students had made some kind of change in their beverage consumption habits, and almost all of them described sharing education and information, or advocating for change with the people in their lives, as well as reporting seeing changes at school.




health campaign, social media, teen health messengers, gamified youth health campaign, increasing water consumption, decreasing SSB consumption

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Committee Member (Chair)

Judith White

Second Committee Member

Ilia Rodriguez

Third Committee Member

Tamar Ginossar

Fourth Committee Member

Theresa Cruz