12 Days of SMEM: City of Chicago Department of Public Health

And this is what our twelve-day journey has led to. My special holiday
treat to you: The Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of
Public Health.

My reasons for asking Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair to participate
in our 12DaysofSMEM project are simple. I feel that the biggest
impediment to wider acceptance and implementation of social media in
public health is simply lack of buy-in by our Executives. Dr.
Choucair has taken to using social media more than most social media
experts so I think this isn’t a problem for him.
Google+. Instagram
(can’t find a link, but this is my favorite thing Dr. Choucair does

If, by his his posting here, just one more Executive decides to
explore the use of social media, this entire exercise, these hours of
research and writing, will be worth it. If one more Executive sees how
easy it is, the wide range of benefits, the why, then we’ll have

What do I mean by succeeded, you ask? As I’ve said many times before,
successful messaging, indeed successful emergency response, is
predicated on pre-established and well-greased communication pathways.
Dr. Choucair understands that and is working his thumbs off building
those connections. I can only hope this very best practice finds its
way to other cities and states.

Dr. Choucair, thank you kindly, and the floor is yours:

I have personally been using social media to promote our public health
priorities since my appointment as Commissioner of the Chicago
Department of Public Health in December of 2009. It’s a great tool to
reach individuals across all demographics. This is especially
important for a city as large and diverse as ours. As a Department we
started actively using social media to promote our priorities in July
of 2011 with the use of
Facebook. We launched
Twitter on August 16, 2011,
the same day we released Healthy Chicago, our citywide public health
plan with a vision of making Chicago the healthiest city in the
nation. Both of these efforts were initiated as part of the education
and public awareness strategy of Healthy
We knew then that it was an important communication tool and a few
months later we don’t know how we ever managed without it!

Social media should absolutely be a component of every public
information emergency response plan. Nowadays more and more people are
getting their news in real time 140 characters at a time. From a
public health perspective this is a double edged sword. When the
message is accurate it’s a great way to communicate up to the second
information of events as they unfold. However, when the information is
inaccurate getting the right information out can be a nightmare.
That’s why it’s extremely important that every message we put out is
accurate and that we are constantly monitoring for inaccurate

As I’m sure your readers are aware, responding to a public health
emergency is city-wide response. That’s why our next step in the
evolution of our social media efforts is to continue improve our
coordination efforts with all our City departments as well as with
other government agencies and the private sector. Over the next few
months we are planning some dynamic changes to how we use social media
as a City during an emergency. Look out for the announcement of some
new tools soon.

I need to take one moment to sincerely thank Dr. Choucair and Deputy
Commissioner Jose Muñoz for
their quick response to my request and willingness to work with my
deadline. They are both professionals in the truest sense of the word
and provide us all with a goal to strive towards. Thank you again.