Robin Strongin

By Robin Strongin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proved this week that government communications don’t have to be grey and dull….except from the standpoint that zombies tend to be grey and dull, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week, the CDC posted on its Public Health Matters blog a piece entitled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse”.  The post emphasized the need for citizens to create an emergency plan in the event of sudden attacks by the walking dead.  These tips included the planning of evacuation routes, making a list of emergency contacts and having supplies like water, non-perishable food items and medications ready to go at a moment’s notice.  As the CDC pointed out on its blog, “When zombies are hungry….you need to get out of town fast!”

Give the creative minds at the CDC a great deal of credit.  By tying valuable information to a fun piece of pop culture, the agency went from its usual 3,000 page views per week to having tens of thousands of web users trying to learn more about zombie apocalypse preparation.  As a result, more Americans now have a better understanding of how to handle real emergencies.

I can’t help thinking that public health needs more of this out-of-the-box thinking.  It wouldn’t hurt to bring some novel ideas to some of our more underutilized programs, like the “Welcome to Medicare” wellness exam, which has been in existence since 2005.  Even though the Medicare population is over 45 million beneficiaries strong, only about 100,000 seniors each year are taking advantage of these physicals for which the federal government is picking up the tab.

We also learned this week from the Reuters health summit that, to quote the lead in the Reuters news story, “Americans are starting to see the doctor again, but more often for cosmetic procedures, such as Botox treatments, rather than cancer screening and other lifesaving preventive care.”

We already knew from previous studies by the RAND Corporation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others that millions of individuals aren’t getting the disease screenings and preventive exams they should.  Perhaps what the CDC has shown us is that these figures can be improved if we make preventive health fun, hip and attention-getting.

I’m thinking there has to be some way to tie blood tests into vampires and the Twilight films, but that may need some work.

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