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Life Better: CDC Translates Science Into Accessible Information

Launches First-Ever Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Campaign

 Photo: Julie Gerberding at CFS press event
 CDC Director, Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H, welcomes media during a press event for the first-ever CFS Public Awareness Campaign November 3. The campaign is part of CDC's commitment to make information and resources available for more than 1 million Americans affected by CFS.

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the National Center for Health Marketing (NCHM) as part of its strategic restructuring to confront urgent 21st-century health threats. For the 800,000 Americans who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome but remain undiagnosed CDC's pledge to translate its impeccable science into accessible health information means they can now make more sound health decisions.

Health marketing is vital in translating scientific data into usable information and creating health messages that help Americans take a more active role in making their health decisions. To convey these messages, NCMH has championed several public awareness campaigns by developing customer-centered and science-based strategies to protect and promote the health of diverse populations.

NCHM's most recent effort makes available information and resources for people affected by an illness that affects more than 1 million Americans – 80 percent of whom have not been diagnosed. First recognized in the mid-1980s and medically defined in 1988, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness that can be challenging to diagnose and treat.

After nearly 20 years of CDC and National Institutes of Health research, in November the NCHM launched the first-ever CFS Public Awareness Campaign designed to educate the American public and health care professionals about who is at risk, the symptoms of the illness, treatment and management options, the importance of seeking diagnosis and treatment, and the impact of the illness on both patients and family members.

Get Informed. Get Diagnosed. Get Help.

The CFS Public Awareness Campaign kicked off November 3 during a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In launching the campaign to target patients and health care professionals, CDC Director, Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., was joined by Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Health, John Agwunobi, M.D., and by CDC's leading CFS researcher, William C. Reeves, M.D.

Photo: Julie Gerberding displays the CFS Toolkit
CDC Director, Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H, displays the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Toolkit during the launch of the first-ever CFS Public Awareness Campaign November 3. The toolkit is one of may items developed to educate the American public and health care professionals about CFS.

"As we continue to learn more and more about this illness, we want clinicians as well as people who suffer from CFS to know about current treatments which rely on a combination of strategies to deal with the most problematic symptoms," said Dr. Gerberding. "Working together, patients and health care professionals can achieve positive improvements in function and quality of life at all stages."

To help achieve these improvements, the campaign provides public service announcements for radio and television illustrating the impact of the illness, educating people about how to recognize symptoms and referring people to resources that can help. In addition the campaign features a national photo exhibit and targets key stakeholder and partnership development. It also includes a CFS Toolkit for Health Care Professionals that provides fact sheets on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options, as well as patient brochures.

NCHM has also launched a comprehensive new Web site, www.cdc.gov/cfs, with up-to-date information on CFS to provide easy to understand, downloadable education tools for patients, their families and health care professionals. By visiting the Web site, patients and caregivers can learn basic facts about CFS, possible causes, "how to talk to you doctor" and stay abreast on new knowledge and publications.

"It is important that health care providers be addressed not only through medical industry channels, but through mass media venues to maximize productive communication between providers and their patients," said NCHM Director, Jay Bernhardt, PhD, MPH. "A coordinated campaign using consistent messages and visual images will increase the impact of awareness efforts."

Working Together

"CDC has a large multidisciplinary research group that collaborates internationally and is very committed to finding meaningful answers that will ultimately help CFS patients," said Dr. Reeves. "CDC is really quite serious about this research."

"Get Informed, Get Diagnosed and Get Help is something that [CDC] is very proud to support in conjunction with the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunctions Syndrome Association of America and the network of patients, advocates and scientists across the [agency] and United States," said Dr. Gerberding.

Strong partnerships and the creation of the NCHM have allowed CDC to extend the reach of essential public health services and health promotions such as the CFS campaign. These efforts have also contributed to CDC's readiness to confront 21st-Century health threats while emerging as a modern, flexible, goal-oriented agency entrusted to protect lives and improve health.

To learn more about how CDC has reorganized to face 21st century health threats, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/about/news/2006_10/reorg_facts.htm

To learn more about CFS, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/.

To learn more about CDC's National Center for Health Marketing, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/healthmarketing/

Page last modified: 11/22/2006