In March’s On Public Health Security, I highlighted the 2014 Priorities of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) – one of which is innovation. Innovation is vital to advancing our mission of providing strategic direction, support, and coordination for public health security. One way we can increase our impact is by leveraging multiple social media tools.
For example, in late October 2012, various agencies and organizations used a number of social media to prepare for, respond to, and recover from Hurricane Sandy (“Sandy”). Before, during, and after Sandy, many communication efforts occurred through social media channels for information sharing for and among responders and the public.
Social media has become an important part of CDC’s overall strategy and ability to reach and respond to those who may be affected by a natural disaster or public health emergency. We have also seen social media inform early detection and surveillance of outbreaks, allowing us to supplement laboratory confirmations of disease to respond accordingly. With the prevalence of cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, social media promotes two-way communication with the public and responders. I view everyone with a cell phone as a potential disease detective, helping professionals and individuals get information accurately and quickly.
Public health professionals at the state, local, and federal levels are key PHPR stakeholders, and social media gives us additional methods to reach them quickly with targeted messages. We work closely with our partners, including all levels of governmental agencies, to share and amplify key messages through social media channels.
I am excited to introduce Code Name: Operation Dragon Fire (ODF), a vehicle that moves forward on the innovation front. ODF aims to integrate strategies among federal agencies, NGOs, and community organizations to transform how public health information is gathered, analyzed, disseminated and used. ODF is a major agency-wide, multi-partner social media emergency management project which is coordinated by our partner, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD). The purpose of ODF is to obtain and provide real-time public health information before, during, and after a public health emergency to responders and individuals from a wide range of sources. By empowering individuals to share on-the-scene information using whatever social network they prefer – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others – and combining that with local news coverage and traditional surveillance data, we will create crowd-sourced data linking people with information – anywhere and anytime.
A large part of any response is getting the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions.
By leveraging advanced crowd-sourced data and combining that with traditional data sources, ODF will enable governments, non-profits, other response organizations, and individuals to gain the clearest picture possible to make the best decisions. A large part of any response is getting the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions.
NVOAD will have more information on their website by mid-summer for those interested in learning more. With ODF, we aim to enhance public health interventions, improve the timeliness of responses, and reduce disaster-related injury, illness, and death.
Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH
Assistant Surgeon General (retired) & Director
Office of Public Health Preparedness & Response
DHHS/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention