New Health Communication Director Connects with Communities
Whether she's spearheading a communication program to promote mental health in children or brainstorming methods to support healthy aging for adults, Diane Barry Preston creates communications strategies that combine analysis and strategy with heartfelt passion and creativity.
This all-inclusive approach comes naturally to HRiA's new director of health communication. It reflects her education− a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in communications– and her professional background which spans 30 years promoting health and social service programs.
It's also a strong fit for her new relationship with HRiA. In many ways, Barry Preston’s move to HRiA is a bit like coming home.
"I wanted to connect more with local communities and do work that directly impacts and shapes people's health,” she said. "HRiA’s involvement with community-level issues is exciting to me."
In her role at HRiA, Barry Preston is working to implement communication strategies throughout the organization. "I’m looking forward to working with other departments to integrate our disciplines as much as possible," she said, emphasizing that successful communications need to be woven into every phase, from focus group to program evaluation.
"When we think about communication strategy, we first need to pinpoint where the attention of our target audience lies," Barry Preston said, "then use the appropriate marketing methods to reach them. Right now, a lot of eyes are on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook but, overall, my approach is to employ multiple strategies in multiple settings."
Ray Considine, HRiA's president, is delighted Barry Preston has joined the organization. "Diane has a well-earned reputation as a leader in the field," he said. "She is creative, has a solid understanding of social marketing and social media, and brings an entrepreneurial perspective to the position."
Barry Preston oversees a 9-person department at HRiA. "I am so impressed with their talent, energy, and dedication,” she said of her new staff.
She is looking to expand on the department's projects which currently include Children’s Hospital Boston's Healthy Family Fun campaign, communications for The 84 youth anti-tobacco youth movement, and the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse.
In her past work, she led the development of websites, brochures, and videos, and oversaw media relations for several large national projects focused on a range of issues including suicide prevention, HIV, substance abuse, and mental health.
She views healthy aging as an emerging public health issue as well as one that is close to her heart. "The year I turned 50, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I took time off to care for him. In light of this experience, I realized that the 50 to 80 timeframe is a huge window of opportunity to promote health and civic engagement," she said.
Barry Preston believes communities need to encourage connectivity and emphasize healthy lifestyles for older adults. “When people are engaged in giving back, they feel useful and have better physical and mental health,” she said. Healthy aging and intergenerational programming are areas that Barry Preston hopes to develop at HRiA.
Barry Preston formerly worked at the Education Development Center (EDC), Join Together—the Boston University School of Public Health's substance abuse prevention center, and Harvard Medical School’s Program on Chronic Mental Illness.