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Julie is a master's student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education. Her interests include how health communication affects personal motivation to engage behavior change and how health communication influences public policy.

soup spoon with letters


In a world of texting and writing ideas in 140 characters of less, abbreviations are essential. However, recently, I was in a public health meeting that I had no idea what was going on. I realized that when I (a person pretty familiar with common public health acronyms) required a cheat sheet of acronyms being used in a conversation, the public health alphabet soup acronyms have gone too far.

CDC, AHEC, BOCC, HIPPA, DHHS, NIH, PAN, IRB, BOH, BRFSS, MOA, NCI, GIS, WIC, USPHS, HUD…etc… (Bonus point for anyone who knows them all)

Can we really expect the general public to understand our secrete language? I began searching the internet and I was amazed by how many public health cheat sheets are available to help the average person understand what the health profession is trying to tell them. Public health professionals frequently talk about the need to engage stakeholders from the community in order to ensure the appropriateness and sustainability of the program. Yet are we making engagement more difficult by not using a common language among all vested parties. We cannot assume equal knowledge among all stakeholders. In a field which is focused on improving the health of others, it only makes sense that we communicate in full sentences at a level that everyone can actually understand.

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