Participation – How HHS Currently Engages the Public
HHS has a large number of activities that provide a means for citizen participation in agency activities such as planning, priority setting, or community involvement. In developing a composite of our current approaches for public participation, we began by asking: “How does my agency include public participation in agency matters, and what will it take to revise its current practices to increase opportunities for the public to participate in and provide feedback on the agency’s core mission activities?”
There are several mechanisms that are widely applied across HHS to engage public input. A key approach is the convening of meetings and public forums such as HHS federal advisory committees that are either agency specific, cross-agency, or interactive with multiple federal agencies. Federal advisory committees are created to advise the Department on a specific topic. By law, the membership must fairly represent diverse points of view. These committee activities draw upon subject matter experts to provide context for issues and facilitate engagement with the public to address barriers and opportunities on particular issues of importance. Committee meetings are convened by the government and, with limited exceptions, held in the public domain. The committees develop reports and other products that help provide input to the government on a wide range of health and human services issues.
Formal input into HHS agencies’ federal advisory committees represents an important opportunity to participate in policy and planning activities. Virtually all public meetings of these bodies include representation by public members and are open for individual formal comment submissions. Many of these bodies also provide opportunities to follow the proceedings via the web or by phone, enabling remote participation. HHS strongly encourages public participation in these meetings and provides here a resource to identify these committees of interest and resources about them. You can find out information about these committees and how to engage with them through this portal: http://www.hhs.gov/open/stayconnected/facdb/index.html.
Another approach is the development of networks with non-governmental, academic, state and regional government and other organizations to take on specific challenges. Other approaches to encourage participation are to work with the media to highlight focused activities such as health promotion, prevention, and emergency preparedness. These include special events that mark certain periods of time during the year for featuring a particular cause with press events, town hall meetings, webinars, and broadcasted events that aim to allow the public to observe and submit questions and comments to government representatives. Yet another approach that HHS uses is to develop agreements with organizations, such as universities, colleges, professional societies, and other non-governmental organizations, to facilitate community engagement activities.
Increasingly, HHS organizations are turning to electronic communications as a means to connect with the public. While the Internet has been a main pathway of communication to the public for many years through websites and databases, it is now being used to interact with the public. Information dissemination to the public has advanced using the Internet and mobile communication technologies, such as the use of rapid syndication feeds for broadly disseminated publishing of accurate health information to other websites and automated text messaging. These have been an important part of providing trusted and verifiable source information to the public, and in turn, provide the public with information that enables citizens to respond on important issues. Electronic technology is also being used to gain input from the public through new Web 2.0 technologies. Among the techniques and methods that are becoming popular in federal agencies are web dialogues, blogs with federal organization leaders, microblogging (such as Twitter), video connectivity through YouTube, idea generation tools that include rating and rankings of ideas by the public, on-line collaboration tools, and hosted jams that engage a wide array of participants in an on-line group discussion. In some cases, the public and experts are using web technology to develop documents through group writing efforts that enable more efficient and wider participation with knowledge in the specific activity.
A prominent case example at HHS with respect to intensive use of Internet technologies and approaches is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC has used podcasts and RSS to cover topics from H1N1 to emergency preparedness to chronic disease. CDC podcasts have been accessed over 8.4 million times, and CDC RSS feeds have been consumed 31.4 million times. CDC has launched Health-e-Cards as another means of providing interactive media activities to help disseminate public health information. Since its launch, over 110,625 e-Cards have been sent and over 313,767 cards have been viewed from the site. CDC has also served as a pioneer in the use of virtual worlds to expand the reach of health messages. Whyville and Second Life have been used by CDC to promote vaccination campaigns, share information about CDC’s mission and goals, and provide access to streaming video, posters, and links to CDC website information. CDC has extended federal public health use of Web 2.0 technologies into social networking sites and microblogging (with 1,251,936 followers on Twitter). CDC’s development of widgets and web gadgets have led to over 55.4 million interactions, while buttons and badges have been a source of over 2.6 million click-throughs in 2009.
There are many other ways to participate and engage in HHS activities. We encourage participation by the public in a variety of ways – a sampling of these opportunities is provided in our “Get Involved” searchable resource http://www.hhs.gov/open/stayconnected/facdb/index.html. This resource allows the user to search by topic area or agency.
I found this to be quite comprehensive. I believe that HHS has made many strides towards better communicating with and involving the public. It is good that HHS continues to use face-to-face meetings and forums while also making it possible for a greater amount of people to have input by allowing remote communication and making use of the internet. My only fear would be that as electronic communication is improving and becoming more wide-spread, the face-to-face meetings will become less frequent even to the point of ceasing. There is just something about being there in person that I hope never goes away.
I believe that this is a great way to use the technology of today to get the information out to the public. Using technology that we use everyday will increase the chances of people responding to what it presented.
Those Seniors who cannot afford Medicare Part B and are not on it, find themselves going to a University Teaching Clinic for health services. This works out fine, but we will be penalized?!.