As summer heats up and tick season reaches its peak months on the Island, the Martha’s Vineyard Tick-Borne Initiative has launched its latest public health effort, reaching out to Vineyard schools via video.
Last week more than 1,500 DVDs, each containing a short tick safety and awareness video, were delivered to Island schools, with each elementary-age child receiving a copy to take home. The videos were produced in both English and Portuguese.
“Our view is that this is a piece of the puzzle,” said Edgartown health agent Matt Poole, who, along with Tisbury board of health commissioner Michael Loberg, has spearheaded the initiative.
The Martha’s Vineyard Tick-Borne Initiative is now in the third year of a five-year grant cycle, with funding provided by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Earlier this year, the initiative worked to map deer habitat via aerial survey.
The school DVD project was the brainchild of Omar Johnson, a public health student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Johnson moved to the Island with his family in October, but was still working toward his master’s at UMass and needed to complete 120 hours of practicum credit. In January, he read about the aerial survey in the Gazette and reached out to Mr. Poole and Mr. Loberg to see if he could help the initiative as part of his coursework.
“It was a cool win-win thing,” Mr. Poole said.
Mr. Johnson collaborated with Dan Martino of Martha’s Vineyard Productions to create the final project. Mr. Martino and his company have been working with the Island boards of health since the grant cycle first began, producing educational videos for the Martha’s Vineyard Boards of Health website, which he also created.
Using research materials provided by Mr. Loberg, Mr. Johnson worked with school nurses and Island doctors to create the script for the video as well as a pamphlet to accompany the multimedia. A native of Connecticut, he said he considered himself familiar with Lyme disease and ticks, but was nevertheless surprised by how many Vineyard kids have Lyme each season.
“That’s one reason why I’m so happy I could participate,” he said. “The process was a wonderful experience for me.” Mr. Johnson said that once he receives his Master’s of Public Health he plans to become a health educator.
The script was translated into Portuguese by Laura Weisman, providing an extra test for Mr. Martino, who had never edited in a foreign language before.
“I was able to sync up her voiceover . . . it was challenging but fulfilling,” he said.
Mr. Poole said he was pleased with the results of the collaborative effort.
“It sort of reminds us all that the school system and the Tick-Borne Initiative have similar goals to raise awareness,” he said.
“This is an amazing project to be a part of because it’s going to have such a long-standing positive effect,” Mr. Martino said.
For more information, or to view the tick education video, visit the Martha's Vineyard Boards of Health website.