Guest Director's Update
This is the second article in a series of stories and commentaries related to cancer communications. Look for the symbol on the left in an upcoming issue for the next article in the series.
Join the Cancer.gov Evolution
We all know the cliché, but it’s true nevertheless: We live in a small world, one that seems to get smaller with each new technological advance. Almost immediately after the tragic earthquake in Haiti, for instance, smart phones, Twitter feeds, and blogs were literally buzzing with the news, and almost as quickly people responded with aid, often using these same communication tools. Even now, in the midst of record snow storms blanketing the nation's capital, NCI's ability to communicate vital information is hardly affected.
The hub of this interconnectivity, the Internet, is one of the greatest unifying forces of our time. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Americans age 18 and older use the Internet, and data from NCI’s Health Information National Trends Survey show that almost 64 percent of the online population has searched the Internet for health information. Thanks to the expanding availability of Internet-ready mobile devices, the digital divide between socioeconomic groups is shrinking. At NCI, we have long recognized the immense value of the Web as a tool for accomplishing our mission of advancing cancer research and care, and we understand that its importance will only continue to grow.
As we consider innovative ways to support the information needs of the public, we are constantly searching for new ways we can use technology to meet growing demands for instant, at-your-fingertips information. Through NCI’s Cancer Information Service, for example, not only can those seeking information receive it by calling 1-800-4-CANCER, but they can also engage with cancer information specialists via LiveHelp, online instant messaging. At NCI, we are also expanding our activity in the ever-changing world of social media, with a small but increasing presence on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Our goal is not only to provide evidence-based information, but to provide it to the right person at the right time, in the most appropriate language and format.
To that end, we are proud to announce changes to our flagship resource, NCI’s Web site Cancer.gov. We are calling it an “evolution” rather than a site redesign because it is not a one-time change; rather, we will roll out meaningful and significant enhancements in phases, and we will engage key stakeholders in the process at critical points.
A central component of this initiative is an unprecedented call to our many stakeholders—including advocates and advocacy organizations, NCI-designated cancer centers, NCI-supported programs, extramural researchers, health care professionals, and the public—to provide their thoughts on how Cancer.gov can become a more effective communication tool.
We are looking for ideas big or small, simple or complex. It may be a two-sentence suggestion about the kind of graphics or images that are used on the site, or a thoroughly detailed concept for how we can make features such as patient and health professional cancer treatment summaries or our clinical trials search page more effective. In short, we want to know how you—both individuals and organizations—think Cancer.gov can be enhanced to better meet the needs of our diverse audience.
Your thoughts and ideas about Cancer.gov can be submitted through an online forum at http://cancergov.ideascale.com. We also encourage visitors to review the feedback that others have submitted. In addition to sharing your own suggestions, visitors to this site can make someone else’s good idea even better by your votes and comments. The dialogue will be open until March 31, 2010. After that date, a new section established on Cancer.gov will provide updates on progress and program milestones for the site’s evolution.
NCI leaders and staff are extremely excited about this initiative. Time and again the cancer community has demonstrated its commitment to advancing cancer research and to innovative projects that aim to reduce the burden of cancer, so we are eager to see the novel and exciting ideas you propose for the next generation of Cancer.gov.
Dr. Lenora E. Johnson
Director, NCI's Office of Communications and Education