TUNE Project strikes chord with young people

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June 1, 2011 - 7:00pm

Back in October 2008, the Health Resources and Services Administration announced more than $6 million dollars in grants to benefit mothers, new parents and their infants. Nearly three years later, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is launching how their piece of that pie - $500,000 - is helping the state's young women make better life choices.

It's called the TUNE Project: a means of using music to deliver positive and healthy messages.

Nebraska's chief medical officer Joann Schaefer calls the program innovative.

Here's a little background.

After receiving news of the grant award, Schaefer initiated market research about the target audience: women ages 16-25. More than 200 women participated in 20 focus groups across the state. The plan was to identify strategies that, when properly executed, would motivate young women to adopt a lifestyle that would contribute to their own good health while improving the likelihood they would enter into a health pregnancy.

"When we started doing that research," Schaefer said, "young women were telling us Look, we can't even get to the health messaging. We're so stressed out on life. We're not setting goals. We can't balance our checkbook. We can't even get to health because we can't get passed the big lifetime stressors that are out there.'"

Since the concept of the grants was to heighten awareness of the importance of preparing couples for their new roles as parents and increase their access to available resources, Schaefer said her HHS staff chose to develop a social marketing campaign to motive young Nebraska women to contribute to their good health.

The market research indicated there were significant differences in media usage by gender and ethnicity that should be taken into account when preparing communication programs.

"When you are talking about preconception health, you have to get those health messages in there at a very early age," Schaefer said. "We know that young adults turn to the web, they look at music to inspire them and they look at lyrics particularly to inspire their actions."

All of which brings us back to the TUNE Project.

Phase 1 was initiated in fall 2009. Phase 1 was a songwriting contest for original music. DHHS received entries from more than 150 artists. From that seven were selected based on inspirational lyrics.

"If you get these positive ambiances around you then I believe music can motivate you in a positive way," said Ishma Valenti, half of a duo which produced the piece Overcome. "In this case with the TUNE Project, it's a really good opportunity to get positive music and positive messages into people's lives to affect them.

Valenti and musical partner Zach Watkins are representative of the artists whose music was selected: young, Midwestern roots, and all-too familiar with the problems facing young people today.

"We made a very open song where anyone can relate to this," said Watkins. "Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody goes through these things. So we definitely made it a song that everyone can relate to."

Willy and Sarah Jane Roberts form the heart of Orphans Cry, a band from Council Bluffs and who submitted their song, Broken Girl.

"Broken Girl sums up a large majority of this generation of young women," said Zach. "The title basically talks about how a lot of young women are broken in their dreams, their goals. They don't really know who they are. They're trying to become somebody that this culture and society has told them they're supposed to be so they lose sight of themselves."

Jessica Errett is another artist whose music was selected by the TUNE Project. Originally from Harlan, Iowa, the 26-year-old now lives in Omaha. Errett says her song, Ready To Go, is like all music: it could have a lasting effect on someone's life.

"(Ready To Go) really talks about staying focused and remembering what you really want for yourself in the end," said Errett. "Just ignoring all those distractions or working through them."

Schaefer said that's the ultimate message behind the TUNE Project: better choices, healthier lives.



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