Jay Bernhardt, at Health Marketing Musings, gives a nod to the value of social media - bloggers and several wikis in particular, and notes their important role in helping the CDC communicate in times of natural disasters and public health emergencies. Yes, more communication channels and voices, and even 2-way communication with government agencies are necessary, but he also highlights a more important point about these new media:
Above and beyond real-time information gathering and message dissemination, the social and community qualities of new media can advance health and risk communication by changing how we understand our problems and how we construct our solutions. News groups, chat rooms, and bulletin boards have been used for exchanging health information and as online support groups since the earliest days of the web. Today's Web 2.0 tools that leverage and harness the "knowledge of the crowd" offer great potential for solving our most difficult public health problems and building and empowering communities of change.
In addition to enhancing and enabling this group wisdom through various collaboration tools like wikis, I also believe that thinking about public health problems and their solutions by building on the assets of existing social networks, linking them and creating new ones when needed, are another set of opportunities these new technologies create for social marketers and all social change agents.
I'm pleased to see some senior people in the CDC embracing social media and starting to think about it from the POV of its possibilities, rather than harping on their possible dangers, pitfalls and problems. Hopefully this can serve as a call to other government agencies - Federal, state and local - to wake up to the music and learn to hum along.