Making a Powerful Connection: the Health of the Public and the National Information Infrastructure. 4.2 Communication


Whether it be through written text, video, radio, e-mail, telephone hotlines, clearinghouses, or other information resources, communication is the sine qua non for informing, educating, and empowering people about public health problems and health issues in general. The targets for public health communications are quite diverse. For example, consumers need to know about personal behaviors that pose risks to health, and where to find services that can support difficult changes in lifestyle. Potential communicable disease contacts need to be informed about risks so that they can seek out diagnosis and treatment. Practitioners need to be alerted to emerging infectious and environmental threats to health so that they can target preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services. And the media needs to learn about health problems in the community so that they, in turn, can publish the facts for wider distribution.

Types of communication that actively link people together are also integral to public health. For instance, effective actions to limit the spread of disease, to respond to disasters, or to minimize the risk of injury or death require the ability to communicate information rapidly to many people at diverse sites. Developing workable strategies for addressing community health problems requires systematic ongoing communication and collaboration among widely scattered public health officials, health care providers, elected officials, employers, community organizations, and fire, rescue, law enforcement, social services, school, and library personnel. Addressing problems in remote areas often requires consultation with off-site specialists, such as epidemiologists, civil engineers, or entomologists. The challenges of keeping up-to-date with advances in public health increasingly demand the availability of long-distance learning ("schools without walls").