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CDC's Health Out Loud

A blog devoted to discussing best practices and questions about health communication, social marketing, and health marketing


CDC’s Guide to Writing for Social Media Released

Cover to CDC's Guide for Writing for Social MediaCDC’s Guide to Writing for Social Media was written to provide guidance and share the lessons learned in more than three years of creating social media messages in CDC health communication campaigns, activities, and emergency response efforts. In this guide, you will find information to help you write more effectively using multiple social media channels, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phone text messaging.  Some of the topics covered:
  • How to incorporate the principles of health literacy in your messages
  • How social media should be part of your overall health communication efforts
  • Separate chapters on writing for Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging

There are a couple of ways you can access the Guide:

The link to the actual PDF of the Writing Guide
The Writing Guide on the Gateway “Tools and Templates” webpage  

We want to hear from you!  Leave a comment with your thoughts about the Guide – what you liked, and what you would like to see improved in the next edition. In particular, we want to hear about your successes in writing for social media – what techniques you have used to better reach your own audiences. We will take all your comments and suggestions into account as we prepare the next edition of the Guide.

Got Advice?

Editor’s Note: We received this email from Kim and thought it would be a good question to run past the Health Communicators and Social Marketers who read the Gateway blog. Make any suggestions in the “Comments” section, and we’ll publish them.  Thanks!

Picture of Kim at CDC

My name is Kim and I work at CDC. I recently began developing online training videos for SharePoint and other CDC applications.  I’ve tried to find information on what makes a good training video or tutorial and am struggling to find the type of information I’m wanting.  Is someone aware of any resources that would help define what makes a good online presentation, what are the nuances that differentiate it from an in-person presentation, and how to navigate those differences? 

Those are the broad stroke questions.  I’d also be very interested in any “do’s and don’ts” tips as well. For example, in one I did previously, I noticed that I moved the mouse too much and people might have found it distracting. Thanks so much for any assistance.

The 6th Annual NCHCMM Conference – Call for Abstracts Ends April 2

NCHCMM Conference "save the date" graphic

The Sixth Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media (NCHCMM) will take place from August 7-9, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference brings together people representing academia, public health researchers and practitioners from federal and state government and the private sector, and provides a forum for collegial dialogue within and across these disciplines. The conference is an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues and shape the future of health communication, marketing, and media practice.

The conference planning committee invites you to submit abstracts for both oral and poster presentations, and for panel sessions.  Your submissions should focus on the areas of health communication, social marketing, media, partnerships, and public health policy communication, but can also cover other topic areas that relate to these fields. Your submissions can also address specific issues and approaches – ranging from research and evaluation, theory/model development, and practice/program-based foci. 

In 2012, the conference tracks remain the same as those in 2011: 

  • To Explore Innovative Communication Tools and Technologies
  • To Advance Science
  • To Improve Practice
  • To Bridge Divides

Abstracts will be reviewed and considered for oral, poster, or panel presentations. Go to for more information and instructions on how to submit your abstract(s).

More information about this year’s conference will be available soon!

CDC Entertainment Education Program Acknowledges Outstanding TV Health Storylines at the 12th Annual Sentinel for Health Awards


Photo of Bridget Carpenter, Co-Executive Producer of "Parenthood", and Sentinel Award Winner, 2011

Bridget Carpenter, Co-Executive Producer, "Parenthood"

Consumer research over the years has shown that more than half of regular primetime drama/comedy viewers learned something about a health issue or disease from a TV show. CDC’s entertainment education program and cooperative agreement with the University of Southern California’s Hollywood, Health and Society (HH&S) program creates the opportunity for CDC subject matter experts to work with writers and producers of prime time television shows to help make sure there are accurate health storylines. CDC’s work and partnership began with HH&S ten years ago and as a result HH&S has worked with more than 150 TV series—some of which have as many as 20 million viewers— on 6 broadcast and 30 cable networks.

TV writers and producers have a writing and research process that challenges them to create gripping storylines under tight time pressures.  As project officer for the Entertainment Education Cooperative Agreement, I have come to realize and appreciate the effort TV writers make to include correct public health messages in these prime time TV shows.  Because of their efforts, millions of people across the US and around the world learn about serious public health challenges and what they can do about them. The Entertainment Education Cooperative Agreement is an exceptionally valuable resource for public health communicators to get our important health messages across in television entertainment shows.

Recently, the Norman Lear Foundation and Hollywood, Health and Society hosted their 12th annual Sentinel for Health Awards and awarded five first‐place winners from a field of 26 entries. The purpose is to recognize examples of TV health storylines that best inform, educate, and inspire viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives.

What Were Your “Takeaways” from the NCHCMM Conference?

Attendees at the NCHCMM Conference in Atlanta GA

NCHCMM Conference in Atlanta, Aug 9-11, 2011

For those who attended the the NCHCMM conference held last week in Atlanta, what stood out for you? Was it a particularly valuable nugget you heard in a breakout session that you can use in your job? Perhaps a plenary speaker who inspired you? How about visiting the Georgia Aquarium on Wednesday night? Or maybe you can only remember the heat… (was it THAT bad)? 

Whatever you ”took away” from the conference, we’d like to hear about it. Share your comments below and talk amongst yourselves.

How to Avoid “Speaker’s Corner” in Your Social Media Communications


“I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
             –Attributed to Voltaire

We all know that social media can be an effective way to reach more people with your health or social marketing messages. If you have a blog or social media site such as Facebook, “Likes” and comments help to show that people are actively engaged in your content, even when they disagree with it.  (Also, a special thanks to all of you who have commented on Health Out Loud). 

But we’ve all seen posts and social media pages that have gone off the tracks, diverted by passionate people with their own agendas and special interests.  There’s a real-life analogy to what happens in Web and social media channels:  Speaker’s Corner. Every Sunday afternoon, anybody with an opinion – and a desire to express it – congregates in a section of Hyde Park in London, and climbs on a soapbox (sometimes literally) and starts talking. Other people come to the park to engage in discussion with the speakers. Here’s a You-Tube Video showing a typical outing at Speaker’s Corner.[1] YouTube Preview Image

Like it or not, this is often how the Web and social media operate – a cacophony of voices all trying to be heard, arguing their opinions with a lot of passion and sometimes not much proof. If a commenter attempts to hijack your blog or social media posting, he or she is acting like the hecklers in Hyde Park. How should you respond to them?

Entertainment Education – Changing Health Behavior Through Entertainment

(co-written by Demetrius Parker, with thanks to CDC Connects reporter Faye McDonald Smith)

 “That was over six months ago, how could I get TBI now?”
“You didn’t. I suspect the symptoms have always been there; you simply didn’t notice them or chose to ignore them…”
– The character Joan Butler (played by Wendy Davis) speaking with her Army doctor when she discovers she has TBI.  From Army Wives on the Lifetime Network.

If you watch the popular Lifetime TV drama Army Wives, you may know that Joan, one of the leading characters, was recently diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But did you know that two CDC scientists were key consultants on the storyline about TBI?  This is an example of Entertainment Education (EE), a health marketing and communication strategy for educating the public, raising awareness and changing health behavior around the world for more than 30 years. Built on theories of behavior change and human behavior, EE uses many formats (e.g. television, film, social media, telenovela, theater) to engage the viewer’s emotions, inform audiences, and change attitudes, behavior, and social norms. 

Twitter Me This: How Can We Improve Health Literacy?


(This blog was co-authored by Linda Harris, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services.)

“How can we improve health literacy?”  is the question that over 160 individuals and organizations came together to discuss on Oct. 7, 2010 during a live Twitter chat hosted by me (Cynthia Baur , CDC’s Senior Health Literacy Advisor) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ team. In all, potentially more than 560,000 people were reached with the message of health literacy—in one hour!

Nikki (@eagledawg), a medical librarian at the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, described the experience as “one of the most unexpected and amazing community flashmob experiences I’ve been a part of on Twitter.” All of us at and CDC agree—the response is a sign that now is the time to mobilize around the issue of health literacy.

As a result of recent and continued developments in health literacy research and policy, people know that limited health literacy is a problem. So the question we want to ask you is: Now what? How can we mobilize and find actionable ways to improve health literacy?  

How Do You Balance the Urgent with the Important?

“It must be a balance in everything we do, not too much of everything, keep it simple, not complicated.”

                       —  Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

We are pleased to announce the name of our Blog on the Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice  – CDC’s Health Out Loud.  Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions.  We are sending a fantastic prize (okay, it’s just a CDC coffee mug and a flash drive) to Ian Chaves from Canada. Please keep sending us ideas about how to improve the web site – we want it to be the best possible site for YOU to use!  

In this blog, we want to start a discussion on a critical topic, one that we all frequently face in the front lines of public health promotion:

How do you respond to near-term emergencies and also find time for the important long-term health needs of your communities?  

Name This Blog



                   “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”     

Please Note:  The Name This Blog contest has ended. The winner was Health Out Loud. Thanks for everyone’s participation and suggestions!

This week we launch a blog on the topic of health communication and social marketing, as part of the new Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice. We know there are many of you out there who are trying to answer the questions about what works best (evidence-based practice). There are also many of you who have important information to share from the front lines of public health promotion (practice-based evidence). We want this blog to mainly support the community of practice-those doing the work to improve health.

In this blog we want to promote the interactive exchange of ideas. You can start by commenting on the content on this site. We also welcome your questions and suggestions about the field in general.  We are looking for inspiration, encouragement, and your ideas about what works in health communication and social marketing. Tell us what you are thinking about, and what currently challenges you. We will regularly pose questions to the blog, and seek a positive dialogue to help this community of practice grow.

Our first question is: What should we call this conversation, this blog? We want something short and memorable, that quickly identifies our field and is appropriate to our topics, and is not a name that could be confused with another communication or marketing blog. And because we’re the government, keep it clean! We know that many of you are imaginative and creative – it’s time to use it! The winner will receive a prize!



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