Request for Proposals: Develop, Test, and Produce Communication Materials

Solicitation Number: PHPA 2217/ eMMA# BPM036459

Closing Date and Time: April 5,2023 at 3:00 pm Local Time

Background and Purpose

There are pronounced disparities in the distribution of the oral health workforce across Maryland, leading to stark inequalities in oral health status. The majority of Maryland dentists practice in more populated and higher income areas, creating areas with significant gaps in access to dental care across other regions of the State. There are areas in Maryland, particularly in the rural regions of the Eastern Shore and Appalachia, where there are no dentists located nearby, leaving large gaps in access to dental care. According to OOH analysis, nearly 50% of the Eastern Shore and 40% of the Appalachian regions do not have any dentists. Even in the areas of the Eastern Shore and Appalachian regions where there are dentists practicing there are only approximately 20 dentists per 100,000 residents, far below

the national average of 61 dentists per 100,000 people. People living in Baltimore City share a similar experience trying to access dental care as approximately 50% of Baltimore City has less than 20 dentists per 100,000 residents.

An area with insufficient access to dental care dure to the lack of dental professionals practicing in that area is known as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area or (Dental HPSA). Lack of access to dental care in these areas is exacerbated by the fact that of the 4,199 dentists practicing in Maryland, only one fourth accept Medicaid making the chances of finding a dentist for the economically disadvantaged even less.

Because there is more poverty and a lack of resources in many Dental HPSAs, youth from these communities rarely pursue employment opportunities in the dental health field. Dental students are nine times more likely to come from urban areas as they are to come from rural areas. Recent dental school graduates also choose to practice in economically advantaged metropolitan areas, which are already saturated with dentists, rather than in Dental HPSAs.

However, dental school graduates that come from rural areas are three to six times more likely to practice in a rural Dental HPSA after graduation than dental school graduates from urban areas. This underscores how important it is for youth from Dental HPSAs to pursue careers in dental professions, as they are the dental workforce who are most likely to return to their home regions and provide care to those who need it most. Additionally, the dental profession is a uniquely accessible career for individuals from all types of backgrounds due to the ability to progress from dental assistant to dental hygienist to dentist.

There is substantial evidence that pathway programs (programs that educate and encourage youth to develop careers in specific fields) are positively correlated with increasing the prevalence of dental professionals in Dental HPSAs. This evidence primarily attributes this to familiarity with, and existing networks within, such areas. Pathway programs, which include career presentations to youth, have been shown to increase high schooler comprehension of Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) programs and understanding of their career identities. Increased participation in experiential opportunities in medicine also increases student connection to the medical community, patient treatment, and mentor development. Shadowing has been shown to improve perceptions, recruitment, and retention of the nursing workforce, as we expect it does in the oral health workforce.

Through a program entitled Pathways to Bright Futures the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), Office of Oral Health (OOH) will connect students at schools and educational institutions in Dental HPSA with dental professionals at primer dental educational institutions in Maryland to educate and inspire these students to enter the dental professions. OOH and its dental partners will use a variety of resources and opportunities to engage the students in this initiative such as an annual statewide event and awards presentation focused on the dental careers which will be held at the National Museum of Dentistry, presentations from dental professionals and on-site experiential dental learning opportunities, scholarships to academic dental institutions, and resources that will connect youth to dental careers and opportunities in Dental HPSAs. In addition, OOH will also work with recent graduates of dental schools and training programs to educate them about the value of practicing in Dental HPSAs within Maryland. PBF will educate youth about the importance of oral health and its relationship to overall health, demonstrate the scope and value of careers in the dental professions, and help them achieve these careers by providing the necessary resources.and pathways. The OOH believes these efforts can significantly alter the dental landscape in Maryland and, over time, build the dental workforce where it is most needed with dental professionals committed to working in Dental HPSAs.

Ultimately, PBF will help to reduce disparities in the distribution of the oral health workforce across Maryland and address inequalities in the oral health status of Maryland residents.

To increase the awareness of and interest in the PBF program among youth residing in Dental HPSAs and dental professionals participating in the program, the OOH will develop, test, and produce communication materials.

3.2 Scope of Work – Requirements

The OOH will contract with a communication company to work directly with the OOH, Director of Social Marketing, to complete all steps necessary for development and production of communication materials for the PBF program.

These communication materials will be used to create interest in the PBF program among target audience members which include youth and (other support audiences) residing in three (3) Maryland Dental HPSAs, Eastern shore, Western Maryland, and Baltimore City. (Other support audiences include dental professionals, dental students, parents, teachers, coaches, and school administrators, etc.)

Specifically, the Contractor will develop, test, and produce communication materials that will reach the target audience, and:

• Increase interest in dental careers among underprivileged youth in Dental HPSAs

• Increase awareness, understanding and participation in the PBF program

• Increase awareness and understanding of the importance of oral health

• Increase awareness of the importance of and need for oral health equity in Maryland

To do this the Contractor will work with OOH to:

• Define communication goals and objectives

• Conduct a desk review

• Research and determine target audiences

• Determine content and develop messaging

• Determine strategic and creative approaches

• Test strategic and creative approaches

• Analyze focus group data

• Produce final communication materials

Communication materials/tools may include print materials such as posters, banners, brochures, etc., social media, media advertising materials such as audio and video content which can be used in traditional and non-traditional media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Podcasts, etc. as well appropriate materials for other outlets as deemed necessary.

3.2.1 General Requirements

The Contractor shall: Attend a Kick-off Meeting to Confirm Communication Goals and Objectives. Within one week

of award, the Contractor will attend a two-hour in-person kick-off meeting with the OOH staff at MDH Headquarters in Baltimore, MD. This meeting will serve as an opportunity to discuss requirements for the project and the process of creating the communication materials for the PBF program. The meeting will discuss expectations, potential content resources, project goals and objectives, campaign goals and objectives, audience analysis, message and campaign theme development, and testing and producing campaign materials.

During the meeting the Contractor and OOH will also discuss methods, reporting requirements, and the

project timeline. Following the meeting, the Contractor will submit a Meeting Summary Report outlining

meeting highlights, confirming communication goals and objectives, outstanding work, and next steps. Conduct Desk Review. Upon approval of the meeting minutes and next steps, the Contractor will

conduct a thorough desk review and engage in necessary consultations to arrive at an understanding of

communication work and research that has taken place regarding reaching out to youth and engaging them in careers in the dental field. This can include other communication materials and campaigns as well as academic research and programs that have been developed on the subject that can help identify barriers and facilitators to creating communication materials for PBF. The goal of the desk review is for the Contractor to analyze a thorough, evidence-based pool of information that they will draw upon to develop a foundation for creating communication materials. Analyze Audiences. The Contractor will conduct an in-depth research-driven audience analysis and hold appropriate consultations to optimally inform the planning, design, and development of the PBF communication materials. The audience analysis will overlap with the desk review and include desk research as well as in-person informant interviews. The audience analysis will obtain data that will create a profile and break-down of the interests and knowledge of potential audiences as well as provide a demographic, psychological, behavioral, and situational analysis of audiences prioritized by significance. After completing this process, the Contractor will hold a meeting with OOH to share findings and recommendations for moving forward.

During this meeting with OOH, the Contractor will present their analysis of information collected in the Desk Review and Audience Analysis. They will highlight what they understand to be most relevant and useful information and share perspectives on the on the information they have reviewed as it relates to the goals, objectives of the communication materials they intend to create. During the meeting, the Contractor will seek guidance and input from OOH and work together to arrive at a consensus of what content is most relevant and useful for the development of the communication messaging, strategic and creative approach and testing and production of communication materials. The OOH and the Contractor will agree on the information that will be used to guide the project forward in the development, testing and production of communication materials for the PBF program. Within one week of the meeting, the Contractor will submit to OOH detailed minutes summarizing all topics discussed in this meeting and conclusions that were reached as well as specific action steps that will be taken next. The minutes and next steps will be approved by OOH. Develop Messages. Upon approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, the Contractor will use the “source information” they have gathered to date to determine, justify, and prioritize campaign content. Using this content, they will develop specific messaging designed to reach the audiences that have been specified and communicate the information necessary to achieve campaign goals. Campaign messaging shall be clear, simple, and easy to understand and prioritized by audience and intended communication vehicle. Determine Creative and Strategic Approaches. Once campaign messaging is determined,

prioritized, and approved by OOH, the Contractor shall crate at least three (3) unique “creative theme ideas” each of which will function as an umbrella concept for the dissemination of the communication materials and tools. Unique to each theme idea, the Contractor will also create examples of specific campaign materials or tools representing that theme concept. The Contractor will also create a strategic approach outlining how these messages will best be communicated to the target audience including what media will be used to communicate the messages and why that media is appropriate. The creative themes and strategic approaches will be presented to OOH for review and approval in accordance with the project timeline. The OOH will share the three (3) themes, and strategies with MDH, Office of Communications (OOC) and the PBF Advisory Committee for review and input. Once and input from these sources is compiled, the OOH will recommend adjustments to the themes and strategies as necessary. The Contractor will incorporate OOH’s Input into the campaign theme and strategic concepts. 

After these changes have been made, the OOH will approve the revised themes and strategic recommendations. Once approved, campaign messaging, themes, and strategic approach will be tested with representative audience members to determine effectiveness, impact, and audience preference. Messages, themes, and strategy will be evaluated based on ability to reach the target audience and accomplish communication goals and objectives. Test Campaign Messages, Themes, Strategies. The Contractor will conduct focus group testing with three (3) groups of 8 – 12 individuals who represent the target audience. The focus groups will be designed to determine audience perception, understanding, preferences and attitudes about the themes and strategies as well as the ability of the messages, themes, and strategies to attract attention and engage the audience. The focus groups will also determine which thematic concept is most preferred and if the corresponding communication materials are appropriate, relevant, easy to understand and effective in achieving the communication goals and objectives. The focus groups will also determine if any changes need to be made to the preferred theme concept and materials before they are finalized and produced. The Contractor will be responsible for compensating focus group participants and will complete and submit all required documentation for the MDH, Internal Review Board (IRB) examination and obtain IRB approval prior to conducting the focus groups.

Three focus groups will be held and last no longer than 90 minutes. Focus group participants will be chosen based on campaign target demographics and geography and will represent a cross section of the primary audiences living in targeted areas of Maryland. Focus group questions will be developed by the Contractor to elicit responses from the participants concerning the ability of the materials to attract attention, thematic preference, content believability, and the power of the creative concepts and materials to engage, educate and encourage them to seek additional information and potentially participate in the PBF program. The Contractor will create data collection checklists and appropriate presentation materials, recruit and compensate focus group participants, conduct the focus groups, collect, and analyze data, and prepare a report summarizing the focus group findings and recommendations needed to finalize the “single” final thematic approach, strategy and PBF communication materials and tools. Focus groups will be conducted by a focus group moderator who has at least 3+ years’ experience in conducting communication/behavioral/healthcare focus groups. If the focus group monitor is not currently employed by the Contractor, the Contractor will be responsible for finding, hiring, and compensating the focus group monitor. Produce Communication Materials and Tools. Based upon the completed analysis of the focus

groups and the selection of final messaging, campaign theme, and strategy the Contractor will produce final campaign materials as determined by the selected strategic approach. These materials and tools, although diverse, will be thematic and appropriate for use in a variety of media. Materials and tools may include but are not limited to a campaign web page withing the OOH, MDH, website, TV, radio, print, internet, and social media advertising; campaign videos; posters, banners, and brochures; and/or other appropriate print or electronic materials and tools. The Contractor will be responsible for all aspects of production and will involve OOH in the stages of the production process to provide creative guidance and necessary approvals.

The Contractor will provide OOH with all final files and produced communication media materials and tools as the contract final deliverable.

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