Zombie Pandemic! Comic books and public health communications from the CDC

Can a comic book help you prepare for hurricane season?

What about bioterrorism? Or a natural disaster?

What about a zombie pandemic?

Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic comic from CDCIn the 21st century, using comics in education stretches far beyond the campus or the classroom. Health organisations around the world are increasingly looking towards comic strips as a medium for public health communication.

The ‘graphic medicine’ movement had a cover feature in the 2010 British Medical Journal, looking at a range of applications – from training doctors to understand patients’ healthcare experience through to public information and outreach programmes.

Last year, America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an unusual educational comic called Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic.

In it, everyday folk caught up in an apparent attack by the walking dead turn to the CDC for advice and support.

I caught up with Maggie Silver of the CDC communications office to find out more, and to make sure I’m ready for the coming zombie apocalypse.

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The joy of copywriting: taking on government garble

I recently took a contract putting stilted government language into plain speech.  I’m rewriting hundreds of web pages covering all kinds of public service – from pest control to parking and schools to recycling.

Public sector copywriting might not sound glamorous, but it’s fun to attack a mountain of jargon and break it down into something clear, friendly, and informative for a wider readership.

I meet a lot of students who want to make a living as a writer. Although there’s a few working on screenplays, many teens imagine themselves growing up to be novelists – solitary, self-reliant figures hunched over a desk, creating a masterpiece which will earn them Rowling megabucks.

Yet the joys of many writing jobs are not solitary but social. Journalism and copywriting both involve getting out, talking with people, communicating and learning.

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April update: Science tattoos, teen bloggers, copywriting, and comics

It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately as I ploughed through a swathe of writing assignments and tried (only partly successfully) to stay clear of the Internet.

I have a couple of articles out later this year for the Australian science magazines ScienceWise and Australasian Science, profiling scientists who featured in Carl Zimmer’s book Science Ink. Carl uncovered the weird and wonderful world of researchers who have their work tattooed on their bodies after he spotted a DNA helix inked on the arm of a respected neurobiologist at a pool party in the States. This led to a great book collecting photos of striking, beautiful and downright bizarre science tattoos from around the world.

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