From the Association of Healthcare Journalists’ fellowship week at the CDC, Atlanta
It was a full first day here at the CDC, where I am participating in the AHCJ fellowship along with 10 other health reporters. Judging by the speakers’ enthusiastic demeanors, it seemed that they were very happy to have us.
The day began with an intro from Glenn Nowak, the CDC’s media director. He credits Julie Gerberding, who just stepped down, as being the first CDC director to recognize the importance of communicating the agency’s activities to the public. Not only was it not a priority before her tenure, but also some higher-ups in the agency had even voiced the opinion that there was no need to let the public know what CDC was doing.
These days, CDC conducts weekly telebriefings with the press and now has even jumped into the social media arena via the National Center for Health Marketing (NCHM), created in 2005 with the idea of delivering CDC’s public health messages through multiple platforms, including podcasts, mobile messaging, MySpace, and Twitter. “The future of health is mobile,” NCHM director Jay Bernhardt, Ph.D., told us.
Another of today’s highlights was a presentation by Foodborne Disease Program chief Dr. Robert Tauxe, who has been all over the news lately as CDC’s spokesman on the peanut butter salmonella outbreak. He told us about a previous foodborne disease investigation in which the epidemiologists had hit paydirt when a woman vomited into her purse, thereby allowing them to test the sample. “You never see that…Nobody saves vomit!” he said, excitedly.
Yes, they are more media-savvy now…but they’re still scientists, after all.
—Miriam E. Tucker