Stop smoking! Practice safe sex! Cut down on fat! Each day, public health messages like these bombard Americans in an effort to foster healthier behavior. In other countries, basic health information about family planning, immunizations, safe sex or oral rehydration therapy is the key to saving millions of lives. But around the world, health officials face a similar challenge: How can they get important information to people in a way they can understand and in a way that will actually result in healthier habits?
Recently, some of the most innovative work in communicating health care information has been coming from right here in Baltimore. Since 1984 the Center for Communication Programs, of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, has been winning awards around the world for its role in developing radio spots, television ads and other ways of communicating public health messages. Perhaps its greatest successes have been the music videos featuring family-planning messages that have become pop hits in Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Mayor Schmoke has joined the School of Hygiene and Public Health in proclaiming this as "Health Communication Day" -- a day to highlight the important role effective communication plays in public health. After all, what good does it do to know what habits keep people healthy if nobody knows how to spread the word?