Is the Practical Playbook Ready for Prime Time?

by Rick Austin March 13, 2014 04:15 PM

A few days ago, the deBeaumont Foundation, Duke University, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced the launch of the Practical Playbook, an online tool to assist in integrating public health and primary care.


I’ve spent some time on the site, and I applaud the intent of the project. Giving primary care doctors and public health officers more tools for working together and understanding each other’s work can only lead to good things.


But… Was this project beta tested? It’s been my experience that CDC’s involvement in a venture of this type is usually a guarantee that the design and structure have been pretty rigorously tested. Even a cursory look at the Practical Playbook reveals confusing, non-intuitive architecture, misdirected internal links, and some oddball design choices.


When you arrive at the main page of the Practical Playbook, the major categories “Learn,” “Do,” and “Share” pop up. The implication of the page design is that you can choose any category to start. Since the intent here is for healthcare and public health principals to work together for the first time, shouldn’t everyone be “learning” to start off? This sounds like quibbling, but you’re vying for busy, distracted eyeballs here. If it’s not crystal clear where your reader should go, your reader is going to pack up and leave.  


Some things you expect to be incomplete. For example, certain “Success Stories” categories are still empty; not surprising, given how new this project is. But why does a success story about cancer care suggest, at its conclusion, that the next story you’ll be interested in is one about IT investments and electronic health records?


Staying with the “playbook” metaphor, Practical Playbook has bobbled the ball, and needs to go back to the drawing board.

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"Nowhere Have There Been a People Without Narrative"

by Rick Austin December 17, 2013 04:20 PM

In the latest issue of CDC’s Health Communication Science Digest, there is this little gem (subscription required) from Michelle Miller-Day and Michael Hecht, writing in the journal Health Communication.


With the typically dry journal article title, “Narrative Means to Preventative Ends: A Narrative Engagement Framework for Designing Prevention Interventions,” the authors make an argument for the use of narrative in health communication.


I’ve blogged about this topic previously, and Miller-Day and Hecht add some impressive documentation to the discussion about the importance of narrative to successful knowledge translation.


The authors argue that narrative is pervasive, quoting Barthes (1975): “Nowhere have there been a people without narrative.” Telling stories about our lives and experiences is how we organize and frame our daily reality. Given this, why would we not try to organize and frame our research results in a fashion that allows more people to understand and assimilate them?


Note that I said our research results, not our research. Of course, the empirical method is needed to derive data that at least attempts to avoid human bias and error. Once we’ve obtained usable data, though, we are obligated to put it into a form that is practical.


Miller-Day and Hecht make their argument on behalf of health prevention campaigns in the field, particularly their own work in the “keepin’ it REAL” anti-drug campaign. However, their argument applies equally to public health researchers who would like to see their work have lasting impact.

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How do we do Knowledge Translation on Antimicrobial Resistance?

by Nick Rocha October 1, 2013 02:04 PM

A few days ago on my drive into work I was listening to a radio talk show. The topic was how many antimicrobials is enough when talking about animal products (meat) used to feed humans? The crux of the issue was that farmers/corporations are using too many antimicrobials in commercial meat farming, contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant germs.


This is not just a U.S. concern, but a global one. A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report put the spotlight back on this issue. This CDC factsheet supports the perspective that “agricultural use of antibiotics in food-producing animals also contributes to the emergence, persistence, and spread of resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has also advocated for decreasing the use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry because of their contribution to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) resulting in prolonged illness increases the risk of death, healthcare costs, threatens health security, damages trade and economics, and negatively impacts us in other ways.  As we can see, many different entities are getting in on this ongoing debate: government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, the meat industry, think tanks etc. So how does knowledge translation fit into all of this? As is usually the case, the messages from these different entities are mixed. We as consumers need to take a more proactive approach on this issue, considering we (meat eaters) are impacted by this issue on a daily basis. Could the issue of AMR be a case study on translating a complex public health issue, one with many gray areas, to consumers?

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Storytelling: Not Just for Social Marketers Anymore

by Rick Austin August 14, 2012 01:49 PM

I’ve noticed an increased emphasis over the last two years at the CDC’s National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media on the importance of storytelling for creating an emotional response that stimulates change.

This year, workshop titles included “Story-telling, Innovative Technology, Comic Books, and HIV/STI Prevention,” “Going Viral – CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse,” “Connecting with Underserved Audiences Through Digital Storytelling,” and “The Power of Storytelling to Reach and Facilitate Change in Communities and Diverse Audiences.”

I’ve had an ongoing conversation with social marketer Nedra Weinreich about the impact of storytelling, and while at the CDC conference I asked her to speak for a minute about its importance for public health researchers.


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A Busy Week at the NCHCMM

by Rick Austin August 9, 2012 10:35 AM

As usual, the CDC packed the schedule at their annual social marketing conference in Atlanta, and they’ve been busy behind the scenes as well.


Moderating a panel presentation on Wednesday, CDC Associate Director Galen Cole introduced Punam Keller, who described CDC’s new suite of health communication tools, HealthCommWorks.


The suite comes in three parts: MessageWorks, SocialWorks, and ProofWorks. The only tool that’s completely ready for prime time right now is MessageWorks.


Both beginning and experienced health communicators can use MessageWorks to craft new health promotion messages or analyze the effectiveness of existing messages.


SocialWorks,  coming online later this year, will apply a similar routine to crafting and analyzing the effectiveness of the social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) component of your health promotion campaign.


ProofWorks, which will be launched in 2013, will assist health communicators in developing and implementing an evaluation plan for their campaign.


I spoke briefly with Dr. Keller about the potential value of MessageWorks to researchers, and she was emphatic about the growing need for researchers to be conversant with how their results are crafted into health communications.


Go take a look at the HealthCommWorks suite, and tell me what you think of it.

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