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For youth by youth: Creating knowledge mobilization tools for the COMPASS study

Background:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that youth have fundamental rights to participate in decisions that impact their lives. There is an impetus to strengthen youth engagement within youth-focused research; one such project is the Cannabis, Obesity, Mental health, Physical activity, Alcohol, Smoking, and Sedentary behaviour study (COMPASS). COMPASS is a prospective study that annually collects longitudinal health data among ~65,000 students and 135+ secondary schools across Canada with the goal to advance youth health and school-based prevention measures. As youth are key knowledge users, there is a valuable opportunity to share results in a digestible manner for youth and authentically engage them within the research and knowledge mobilization (KMb) process. The overall project objectives were to 1) enhance youth voice within COMPASS and 2) mobilize COMPASS results to youth using youth-friendly platforms and a youth engagement approach.

Methods:

Using a youth engagement approach, KMb youth leaders and COMPASS researchers created a project team environment fostering reciprocal growth, feedback, and co-creation. Youth developed KMb tools through a staged process: 1) identifying key topic areas and notable study results for sharing; 2) selecting a dissemination platform and strategy (e.g., posting, schedule, design); 3) developing youth-centric materials that integrate COMPASS data, actionable messages, and supplementary resources; and 4) developing strategies to increase reach and engagement. Since the project’s launch in June 2021, KMb youth leaders have developed and shared weekly posts and reels to mobilize relevant data from the COMPASS study via the Instagram account @the_compass_study. In December 2021, a complementary French Instagram account @projet_compass was launched to mobilize COMPASS data to a French-speaking youth audience. Key Instagram analytics (accounts reached, impressions, profile visits, website taps) are collected monthly and weekly to assess reach and engagement. 

Results:

To date, 24 unique Instagram posts and 3 reels have been developed by youth in English, and four posts have been translated into French. Weekly posts and reels include COMPASS research evidence on diverse topics selected by youth including: mental health, screen time, sleep, physical activity, body image, vaping, bullying, school connectedness, and COVID-19’s impact on youth. From June 2021 to January 2022, average monthly Instagram analytics have demonstrated moderate audience reach given the project’s early stage via number of accounts reached (M=2090), impressions (M=3808), number of profile visits (M=155) and website taps (M=6). Strategies to further enhance reach and engagement of youth nationally are being developed, (e.g., contests, partnered posts with health-advocacy organizations, speaker panels) fostering a direct researcher to youth consumer connection. 

Conclusions:

The use of a youth engagement social media approach shows promise in reaching a youth audience when disseminating evidence for youth-focused quantitative studies. Social media analytics can be used as a tool to quantitatively gauge reach and engagement with research evidence among youth and guide adaptation of online knowledge translation strategies. Considerations for researchers planning to engage youth in knowledge mobilization will be discussed. 

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