Getting the Word Out: New Approaches for Disseminating Public Health Science

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Abstract

The gap between discovery of public health knowledge and application in practice settings and policy development is due in part to ineffective dissemination. This article describes (1) lessons related to dissemination from related disciplines (eg, communication, agriculture, social marketing, political science), (2) current practices among researchers, (3) key audience characteristics, (4) available tools for dissemination, and (5) measures of impact. Dissemination efforts need to take into account the message, source, audience, and channel. Practitioners and policy makers can be more effectively reached via news media, social media, issue or policy briefs, one-on-one meetings, and workshops and seminars. Numerous “upstream” and “midstream” indicators of impact include changes in public perception or awareness, greater use of evidence-based interventions, and changes in policy. By employing ideas outlined in this article, scientific discoveries are more likely to be applied in public health agencies and policy-making bodies.

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