3.9 Public Notice
There are many avenues through which HHS informs the public about significant agency activities and business. ASPA serves as the Department’s principal public affairs office, leading efforts across HHS to promote transparency, accountability, and access to critical public health and human services information through multi-channels to the American people.
Collectively, ASPA-managed websites (including HHS.gov and other sites) received 41.5 million visits in FY 2013 by over 32 million unique visitors. These visitors benefitted from substantive improvements to HHS.gov including a significant refresh of the HHS.gov home page and the Secretary’s site. For example, in June 2013, ASPA launched HHS.gov/HealthCare, a website for consumers who are interested in learning about ACA benefits and provisions. The site averages more than 66,000 visitors each week. The site has more than 30 blogs featuring announcements and information on ACA benefits and the Marketplace. ASPA has written the majority of the blogs.
ASPA strategically uses social media and digital services to support the larger communications goals of HHS and share news and vital health information. HHS.gov launched an official HHS Facebook page in June 2013, which reached nearly 70,000 likes by the end of September 2013. The HHS.gov Twitter account (@HHSgov) went from 205,000 followers in October 2012, to 307,000 followers by the end of September 2013.
ASPA has worked diligently to improve the infrastructure required to maintain a robust digital program. In FY 2013, ASPA completed the transition of all Internet websites and web applications hosting from dedicated physical servers in a government datacenter to a cloud infrastructure. ASPA also successfully completed a multi-year project to raise the standard of 508 compliance for all HHS-managed websites. Over 95 percent compliance was achieved across Department websites.
Additionally, the HHS Entrepreneur program is supporting ASPA’s multi-year Strategic Communications Planning Project. This project is modernizing how departmental publications and on-line content is developed and reviewed. The result will help ensure that content is audience driven (consistent with the Digital Government Strategy) and outcomes that demonstrate increased impact are common practice.
To make sure that the public gets accurate health care, public health, and human service information in a timely and transparent manner, ASPA plays a key role in Department-wide coordination of daily news announcements ASPA processed 7,696 interview requests, issued 181 news releases and 82 media advisories, and reviewed 921 OPDIV news releases, advisories, and other press materials on topics including HIV/AIDS, food safety, disease outbreaks, mental health, and suicide prevention. One important way in which the public is made aware of upcoming Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) meetings is through the Federal Register. Notices of upcoming FACA meetings must be published at least 15 days in advance in the Federal Register. Committees will also put dates of their meetings on their website. The FACA Database (http://www.facadatabase.gov/) contains a public listing of all the HHS Committees (http://facadatabase.gov/committee/committees.aspx?aid=76) and the committee websites. A second source of information about agency activities and business can be obtained through the main HHS website. The HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs provides media advisories for important HHS events and also offers email updates and RSS Feeds on important HHS activities via the news page (http://www.hhs.gov/news/email/index.html). In addition, the HHS operating and staff divisions maintain their own calendars of events, subscription services, public bulletins, and social media sites.
In addition to ASPA, the Federal Register also provides an important source for public information about upcoming Federal Advisory Committee meetings. The FACA Database (http://www.facadatabase.gov/) contains a public listing of all the HHS Committees and their websites.