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Zombies, the Public Health Mascot?

Zombies, the Public Health Mascot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began a Zombie Preparedness initiative with the goal of engaging the public on preparedness. Obviously not just for a "Zombie Apocalypse", the information projected by the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness is useful in real-world disaster situations. Reaching a diverse audience is what this campaign is all about. According to the CDC website:
"If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack." Dr. Ali Khan, Director
Are Zombies the enduring icon public health wants to be remembered by?
I appreciate the efforts of the CDC and believe they've reached a major milestone in pubic health awareness. Will the Zombie Apocalypses continue to be effective? What the CDC has done is to copy  what traditional responders have been doing for years: public education through an iconic mascot. The fire service has Sparky the fire dog and law enforcement has McGruff, the Crime Dog...and the CDC/Public Health has Zombies. Sparky has his own site as does McGruff. The CDC Zombies have an enhanced web presence with a graphic novel, apps, YouTube and webpage widgets. Each embrace popular culture with an appropriate message.

Is the Zombie audience going to get the message?
The fire service and law enforcement continue to put uniformed responders into the schools and at public events to reinforce the messages of Sparky and McGruff. Real world people teaching age-appropriate information. The Zombie Apocalypse initiative is web and social media savvy but it is also static. You have go out and look for it. Traditional public safety puts educators in contact with at-risk populations to deliver and reinforce the message.

Will the Zombie image be a motivating factor in getting a kit, making a plan, and being informed?

Putting an icon to a message is a good idea. I'm not sure that the Zombie image is exactly what the CDC and public health want their enduring icon to be. A large issue is the identity of public health. Is it time to consider public health part of emergency preparedness or public safety? I think so. With that in mind, is the public health preparedness message better delivered via a partnership with traditional response groups? Should police and fire educators take on public health awareness task?

One solution may be a partnership between the CDC and the National Fire Protection Association to deliver a joint public health preparedness message. That message (including the Zombies) could be delivered by local uniformed responders, personnel from the local hospital or health department during fire prevention week. I advocate for public health preparedness to become part of Fire Prevention Week activities (maybe Fire Protection Week needs a name change?)


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