Office of the Associate Director for Communication
Katherine Lyon Daniel, PhD
Katherine Lyon Daniel, PhD, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Associate Director for Communication. She leads the agency’s external and internal communication aimed at putting the best information available into the hands of people who need it to protect their health or the health of others. Dr. Daniel combines her experience in strategic communication and behavioral science to advance CDC’s mission of saving lives and protecting people.
Integrated communication – When she stepped into her agency-wide role in 2011, Dr. Daniel had already identified a need for CDC’s information to be available more broadly and through more channels. With the aim of developing communication that would help everyone within CDC understand how their work fits into the overall mission by creating a clear, concise summary of the agency’s mission: CDC 24/7. Saving Lives. Protecting People. She led the integration of digital and traditional media so that agency information appears simultaneously on multiple platforms, and she folded the work of the agency’s broadcast and graphics units into the overall communication strategy.
Accessible information – Under Dr. Daniel’s leadership, CDC has adopted a Clear Communication Index that guides authors in developing materials that meet an agency-wide accessibility and readability standard. Earlier, as deputy director of CDC’s National Center for Health Marketing, she helped accelerate the agency’s eHealth movement. She supported the migration of CDC’s flagship Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report to electronic distribution and the inclusion of interactive features. And she continues to push the agency’s adoption of health literacy, plain language, and clear communication.
Strategic communication – Throughout her CDC career, Dr. Daniel has championed the need to think ahead about what may happen next and to plan communication interventions for those events. She supported research and a proactive focus to help the agency become more effective in helping people. For example, in her early CDC career she initiated the development of the agency’s parenting and pregnancy portals. These portals connect parents and others not only to the topic they first seek, but also to other topics that are part of their total health needs.
Digital media – Use of digital media has increased substantially, reaching more than 11 million people through the agency’s YouTube channel, 13 blogs, 18 Facebook profiles, and 50 Twitter profiles. Dr. Daniel supports communicators throughout the agency with services that help them select and integrate the multiple channels most appropriate to their audiences and messages.
Gateways to health information – In addition to the parenting and pregnancy portals, Dr. Daniel originated CDC’s Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice. This encyclopedia for health communication and public health professionals collects communication planning resources in a single location to help support more effective outreach to populations needing reliable health information. She was a key player in the development of CDC’s national conference on Health Communication, Media, and Marketing that convenes university scholars, public health researchers, and practitioners from the government and private sectors for cross-disciplinary dialogue.
Campaigns for health behavior change – Dr. Daniel initiated the government’s first communication campaign to support early autism screening. The “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign that has improved early identification of developmental delay and disability by engaging parents, public health and healthcare partners, so that families get the services and support they need as early as possible. She also led CDC’s landmark communication campaign to increase awareness of folic acid consumption among women of child-bearing age.
Dr. Daniel earned the B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia, and the Ph.D. in Social Ecology from the University of California at Irvine. Her dissertation research focused on communicating long-term health risks to the US Senate. She has conducted and published research on risk perception and understanding risk behavior. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen scientific articles. In 2010-2011, she completed the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. She has received numerous professional communication awards, including two HHS Secretary’s Awards for Distinguished Service, the International Academy of Arts and Sciences Questar Grand award, the MarCom Creative Gold award, and the Public Relations Society of America’s prestigious Silver Anvil award.
As a mother, Dr. Daniel’s aim is to empower moms—or anyone who cares for others—to be the best advocates for their families’ health by putting the information they need at their fingertips. As a communication and behavioral science professional, she seeks to extend CDC’s ability to promote and improve health by putting the most reliable, helpful information possible in the best places for those who need it.