Behind the Scenes with CHEF Recipes

My name is Ellie Morris and I am the School Health Liaison for the Chatham County Public Health Department.  I am also a 2008 MPH graduate of the Health Behavior and Health Education Department in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.  I wanted to share this blog post as an an example of how digital story telling can be applied in a professional public health setting.

the green recipe boxIn public health, we are always in search of new and innovative ways to deliver health messages and help make healthy changes easier and more desirable for people.  Social marketing can be a useful tool in this endeavor and not surprisingly has been catching on in different ways throughout the field.  As part of our social media strategy, the Chatham County Public Health Department (Chatham County, NC) has been blogging for five months.

We recently tried our first video-blog and so far the response has been very positive. Our video-blogging series will focus on how to make recipes that are cheap, healthy, easy, and fast (CHEF). The text of the blog provides the recipe itself and related health facts and healthy cooking tips; the video provides a demonstration of the cooking techniques used in the recipe.

By using both media forms, the hope is that people with more cooking experience will find the text of the recipe and tips helpful in creating healthy meals, and that people with less cooking experience can use the visual cues from the video to help guide them through cooking the recipe.  It is common to find health educators and nutritionists offering healthy recipes and cooking demonstrations to the public, and through this video blog, we have created a virtual version of this practice that people can access on demand. In terms of our web presence, having a video on the site provides added interest to the blog overall and will hopefully boost traffic to our site.

In our health department setting, in order to video-blog, we had to be able to create a relatively professional looking product in a fast and cost-effective manner.   I used a Kodak zi8 camera for the filming- this is relatively cheap camera that is very easy to use and yields good-looking high definition footage.  I shot the video mostly hand-held and with the help of a mini-tripod, but occasionally, I needed a cameraperson to help out.  Since my goal was to capture the techniques used throughout the cooking process, I set up each of the shots so that the audience would be able to see clearly the steps being taken to cook the meal. This also explains my use of macro and close-in shots.  I edited the video using Mac’s iMovie HD software, which I find quite intuitive and easy to use.  The video contains text but no audio because I thought this would make the whole creation process easier and faster—I didn’t have to worry about writing, memorizing, recording, or messing up my lines, or editing the audio. Overall, the shooting and editing process took about 9 hours.

With more and more user-friendly tools for shooting, editing, and sharing video, those of us with public health experience but little media production experience can better explore the health promotion opportunities presented by videos, video-blogging, Youtube, and similar sites.

3 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes with CHEF Recipes

  1. Andre Blackman

    This was absolutely fantastic to read! I’m here in Raleigh and my background/passions are all around public and community health and using storytelling. I write a blog on public health and innovation/media and will be putting together more spotlights on the story aspect of public health.

    Keep up the great work Ellie! Mike, I may be in touch soon!

    1. Mike Nutt

      Andre, thanks for saying hello! I think Ellie and I would both agree that we’d like to see more media being employed in the field of public health. Looking forward to checking out Pulse + Signal…

  2. Mike Nutt

    Full disclosure: Ellie is my fiancée.

    The Carolina Digital Story Lab provided pro bono consulting services for the Chatham County Health Department (video equipment purchase recommendations for their video blog, and social media strategy). If you are a community-based organization in need of similar recommendations, we may be able to assist you. Please contact us for more information:

    Also Ellie is really rad. Check out her reflective biking accessories!


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