Welles: Now it’s your turn to blog

Agencies face the challenge of balancing the old and new ways of communicating with the public

CDC’s Health Marketing Musings blog

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At least one federal health care agency is dipping into the outermost edge of communications with a blog. That’s not an alien creature. Blog is the term for a Web-based log or commentary. A blog is a form of new media.

Finding a government blog made me realize that we are in the new millennium, with new ways of thinking and new ways of communicating.

chartBlogs might seem to be suited only to the newest generation of workers. But at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older generation of managers who are open to trying new ideas have embraced the blog.

One federal blogger is Jay Bernhardt, director of CDC’s National Center for Health Marketing. In his blog, Health Marketing Musings, he wrote that new media will change how health information is produced, exchanged, packaged and consumed.

“For those of us working in governmental health communication and marketing at all levels, a fundamental challenge we all face is how to balance the old with the new,” he said. How true! Isn’t that the challenge for government and for health care?

One reason for trying something new is the importance of reaching health care consumers with critical information. It’s not hard to find developing health care blogs. According to Bernhardt, getting health messages out through different channels is an effective way of reaching different communities. His blog is directed at professionals in the emerging field of health marketing communications.

“Blogs are informal and personal. Those of us in health marketing find blogs a powerful way of communicating information,” he said.

Several projects similar to MySpace are under way in the health care industry to develop blogs through which physicians and other providers can interact. The purpose, said speakers at a recent health care blogging summit, is to accelerate adoption of best practices and reach health care consumers with important information on diseases or health issues.

“Public health is behind in using information technology to engage consumers,” Bernhardt said. Partly for that reason, CDC has made it a strategic priority to use new media and social media to improve health, he said.

Some technology gurus question whether blogs will thrive or pass away, pointing to corporate use of blogs to advertise products. But commercialization of new media is not much different from business use of traditional media, both print and broadcast.

“Health-related blogs are in their infancy and in early stages of diffusion of information,” Bernhardt said. “While certain segments are reaching saturation for blogs, health care is at the beginning of something that will expand.”

Government and health care are latecomers to blogging; and particularly for government, it remains to be seen whether blogging will expand. As a journalist and writer, I am a latecomer to blogs. But I see blogging as a positive way to enhance communication and discussion. Who knows, it might even help government bloggers get a life!

Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at [email protected].

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