Friday, May 20, 2011

Lessons from Zombies

I've spent many, many hours on the CDC website researching different health topics over the years. But this week they provided advice on a health hazard that I'd never considered before: a zombie invasion.

"The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that  a zombie apocalypse could happen," wrote Assistant Surgeon General Ali S. Khan in a May 16th Public Health Matters blog post. "The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder 'How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?'"

It turns out that preparing for an invasion of the undead involves the same steps as preparing for any other disaster: make a disaster kit, and create a family emergency plan. While citizens of zombie-infested areas flee town through escape routes they'd wisely planned out in advance, Khan assures us that "CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation."

By framing disaster preparedness in terms of zombie preparedness, the CDC brought media attention to the issue. The clever blog post has been mentioned in a wide range of media outlets, such as ABC News, The Atlantic, and Fox News. Zombie preparedness is a humorous antidote to the hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters regularly covered in the news, for which, of course, we really should be prepared.

Humor - and zombies - convey the message of disaster preparedness much better than a carefully crafted CDC press release ever would. Health information is often conveyed by drawing on our fear of disease or injury: get this screening test now to catch cancer in its earliest and most curable stage! Childproof your house to protect your baby! It's exhausting to worry about so many health issues. Maybe more people would follow health advice if some of it were conveyed with a lighter touch or a more positive spin. Bring on the zombies, I say.

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