Society Webinars

CDC Moving Forward: What it Means for the Future of Health Communication


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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is routinely called to respond to health emergencies such as H1N1 and COVID-19 while simultaneously managing long-standing public health challenges including cancer, HIV, and heart disease. Communicating science clearly when data is nuanced and evolving is challenging but critical to protecting the public’s health. In August 2022, the agency launched CDC Moving Forward, an initiative designed to transform how the agency strengthens its ability to deliver on its core mission: to equitably protect America from health, safety, and security threats.

CDC conducted a scientific, programmatic and structural review to identify areas for improvement. As a result, health communication was identified as one of the eight improvement areas. In this Society for Health Communication webinar, sponsored by CDC Foundation and Evoke Kyne, we hear from CDC leaders Dr. Betsy Mitchell and Carol Crawford about the ongoing efforts to apply plain language principles to all CDC content, and Clean Slate, the review and relaunch of the CDC website with a focus on better user experience and functionality. The conversation was moderated by Kinetra Joseph, Campaign Director, CDC Foundation.

CDC Moving Forward Resource List 

Carol Crawford, MPA, Director of Digital Media, Office of Communications, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Carol has been at CDC for more than 33 years and has established herself as a government leader in digital communication. She has been the Digital Media Branch Chief in the Division of Public Affairs in OC for the last 12 years where she has overseen all of CDC’s digital media activities, including oversight of CDC’s website and social media profiles. Prior to her branch chief role, Carol served as the Deputy Director, Division of eHealth Marketing. She founded the agency’s Digital First strategy and recently launched a multi-year Digital Modernization Initiative for the agency. Carol has been involved in CDC’s web and social media activities since their conception and has overseen CDC’s digital strategy for outbreak and pandemic responses such as COVID-19, Ebola, Zika, H1N1, Hurricane Katrina, SARS, and several others. She earned a master’s degree of public administration from University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree of business administration from Georgia State University.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Mitchell, PhD, MA, Director, Division of Communication Science, Office of Communications, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Betsy leads the development, implementation, and training on evidence-based, high impact communication so that CDC’s efforts are understandable and actionable. Thus, maximizing public trust in and credibility of CDC’s science, programs and recommendations. For nearly two decades, Betsy has held numerous senior level positions at CDC to include serving as the Associate Director for Communication Science in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), senior health communicator in the Office on Smoking and Health, and research lead in the Emergency Risk Communication Branch in the Division of Emergency Operations. Betsy’s areas of expertise include message development, health communication and social marketing campaigns, and risk communication. Betsy has co-authored many articles on emergency communication and health campaigns such as for H1N1 influenza, hurricanes, radiologic, biologic and chemical terrorism, Zika virus (Deten el Zika), preconception (Show Your Love), mental health (How Right Now), and accessible communication. Dr. Mitchell has held teaching appointments at Campbell University, the University of Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University and most recently the City University of New York, Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. Betsy earned a master’s degree in health communication from Emerson College and a PhD in communication science from the University of Connecticut.   

Kinetra S. Joseph, MA, Campaign Director, Million Hearts, CDC Foundation
Kinetra S. Joseph is a results-focused marketing leader who specializes in marketing strategy, brand messaging and integrated campaign planning for nonprofit causes, behavior change marketing and public-private partnerships. In her role as director for the CDC Foundation’s Million Hearts® Alliance, Kinetra leads an $11M portfolio of national cardiovascular (CV) disease prevention campaigns and manages a national public-private coalition that includes global biopharma companies, public health organizations, community-based service organizations and media companies. She leads a dedicated team and multiple agencies to produce health communication campaigns that fuel CDC towards its goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes, while also supporting funders in their corporate social responsibility commitment to confront CV disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Before CDC Foundation, Kinetra was managing director of Integrated Marketing at American Cancer Society’s global headquarters where she directed integrated marketing and communication planning for all brand and revenue programs, including its Masterbrand marketing, global peer-to-peer fundraising programs, corporate partnerships and sports and entertainment programs. Kinetra earned a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications / Journalism from Louisiana State University. 


Communicating Through a Pandemic: Fireside Chat with Dr. Amelia Burke-Garcia

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The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the existence of inequality, physical and emotional health disparities among individuals, within communities, countries, and around the world. It also revealed communication as an ongoing challenge for public health, policy and government leaders as it relates to mis- and dis-information, mitigation and coping strategies, workplace policies, and national recoveries. What lessons have we learned than can help us create more effective and impactful health communication strategies and campaigns?

In this webinar, Dr. Ashani Johnson-Turbes sits down with Dr. Amelia Burke-Garcia to explore Burke-Garcia’s new book Communicating Through a Pandemic: A Chronicle of Experiences, Lessons Learned, and a Vision for the Future. Watch to see what public health professionals, marketers, health communicators, and policymakers can learn from communication research, science, and practice.

Amelia Burke-Garcia, PhD, MA, is the program area director of digital strategy in the public health department at NORC, and has extensive experience as a project director, having guided such projects as the award-winning How Right Now/Que Hacer Ahora campaign, CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases’ national influenza vaccination campaign, and a social media and breast cancer grant funded by NIH. She is a seasoned health communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience in health communication program planning, implementation and evaluation, with specific expertise developing and evaluating digital and social media communication. She has been highlighted by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, for her work in honor of Women’s History Month and named to’s list of 10 Modern Female Innovators Shaking Up Health Care.

Ashani Johnson-Turbes, PhD, is the Vice President & Director of NORC at the University of Chicago’s, Center on Equity Research, a multi-disciplinary Center situated in NORC’s Academic Research Centers. The Center advances equity through the development, implementation, and dissemination of high-quality inclusive and equitable social science research. Johnson-Turbes is an experienced and award-winning social scientist with more than 20 years conducting communication, social marketing, public health, and public policy research, including rigorous measurement of communication messages, materials, and campaigns to promote equity. Johnson-Turbes serves on the Research Committee for the Ad Council, the Evaluation Advisory Group for Bright Pink, and is Vice President for the Society for Health Communication.


Centering Equity in Health Communication Design and Delivery

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As we continue to grapple with lessons learned from COVID-19, health communicators have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to approach our work through an equity lens. Even small shifts can go a long way toward rebuilding trust and disrupting power imbalances at the root of healthcare inequities. But what does centering equity in health communication look like in practice? What does inclusive and accessible public health guidance sound like? And what are the implications for communication research and evaluation?

In this webinar, leaders from the field explore these questions and more. Watch to learn about the current state of equity-centered health communication and hear panelists’ unique perspectives on where we’ll go next.



Ashani Johnson-Turbes, PhD, is the Vice President & Director of NORC at the University of Chicago’s, Center on Equity Research, a multi-disciplinary Center situated in NORC’s Academic Research Centers. The Center advances equity through the development, implementation, and dissemination of high-quality inclusive and equitable social science research. The Center focuses on expanding culturally responsive research, building partnerships, and embedding equity principles in social science research across a range of activities and departments. Johnson-Turbes directs research staff and collaborates with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to develop and implement rigorous, nonpartisan, objective research at NORC. She is an experienced and award-winning social scientist with over 20 years conducting communication, social marketing, public health, and public policy research, including rigorous measurement of communication messages, materials, and campaigns to promote equity. 

Johnson-Turbes blends her academic background in political science, political behavior, and public policy with years of work in public health, health communication, and evaluation. She received her BA at Hampton University, MA, and PhD at Purdue University with continued studies in political science and quantitative methods at Leiden University and the University of Chicago. Johnson-Turbes also serves on the Research Committee for the Ad Council, the Evaluation Advisory Group for Bright Pink, and is Vice President for the Society for Health Communication. 


Susan K. Laird, DNP, MSN, RN, is the Training and Health Education Lead at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of Communication, Division of Communication Science and Services. Dr. Laird co-leads the CDC's Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication initiative. She served for 13 months in the COVID response, initially in issues management, followed by 9 months as the principal deputy of the Joint Information Center. 

In her prior roles at CDC, Dr. Laird served as clinical director for CDC-INFO, branch chief for community engagement, communications director for CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds, and director for the division of news and electronic media. She understands the importance of clear, inclusive, appropriate, and effective communication in everything we do. Prior to CDC, after many years in marketing and advertising, Susan did a 180-degree career change, becoming a nurse. Her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Adult Health, and Doctor of Nursing Practice are all from Georgia State University. She is an emergency department specialist, and is passionate about health equity, having witnessed the impact of disparities firsthand in her clinical work. 


Stacy Robison, MPH, MCHES, is a self-proclaimed health literacy geek and an expert in clear communication, Stacy is responsible for leading CommunicateHealth’s content and creative excellence. Stacy oversees CommunicateHealth teams in creating award-winning innovative health content and digital tools informed by the latest public health research and behavior change theories — delighting end users and clients alike. 

Since co-founding CommunicateHealth at the age of 30, Stacy has been recognized as an innovative business leader by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. She has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Inc. magazine, among other media outlets, discussing a variety of issues from entrepreneurship to health behavior change. 

Stacy believes that clear, effective health communication has the potential to transform lives, combat health disparities, and empower people to take charge of their health. She's committed to helping CommunicateHealth's clients leverage equity-centered health communication to create compelling evidence-based health communication campaigns and materials for diverse audiences.


The Power of Paid Media to Help Change Health Behaviors

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The media landscape continues to rapidly evolve and communicating health messages to the right audiences at the right time and in the right way is more important than ever before. Paid media approaches (ads, sponsorships, boosted content) offer highly effective ways to segment and reach specific audiences, including people who are medically underserved, with important, lifesaving health messages. 


 Shelly Spöeth
 Member at Large, Society for Health Communication
 Principal, Abt Associates

 Shelly Spöeth has more than 25 years of strategic communication and social marketing experience tackling complex health and social issues. Shelly has implemented, evaluated, and managed dozens of health communication campaigns, many that have dedicated significant budget to paid media execution including CDC campaigns Take Charge. Take the Test. to encourage HIV testing; and HPV Vaccine is Cancer Prevention to increase HPV vaccination of children ages 11-13. Currently, Shelly is a Principal Associate at Abt Associates, a global research and evaluation firm where she leads communication activities on behalf of a variety of government clients. Prior to that, she led strategic marketing and communication planning at the American Cancer Society; served as a senior vice president at Porter Novelli, leading the Health & Social Impact practice; and Vice President at Hager Sharp. She has served as the Member at Large for the Society of Health Communication for the past three years.

 Molly Walker
 Vice President, 
 Unified Partnerships


 Molly Rose Walker is a Vice President for the Unified Partnerships division at iHeartMedia. An experienced leader in health and social impact communication and advertising, Molly partners with ad agencies and consultancies to reach the audiences they need to engage with effectively. Molly provides RFP consulting, comprehensive data and research, multi-platform media planning, and delivery services with an emphasis on state and federal campaigns and integrated marketing efforts. She has led advertising initiatives with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and National Science Foundation (NSF), among others. She is on the Advisory Board for the Society for Health Communication, a member-driven organization bridging the gap between public health, healthcare, digital health, academia, and research. 


Elevating Women in the Workplace: Tackling the Exclusion and Underrepresentation of Women in Communications

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Breaking the bias for women in the workplace means educating and amplifying about the challenges women face daily. Women in industry have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of women in advertising, media, and technology are declining. With one in four women considering leaving the workforce, this downward trajectory threatens growth in these industries, especially when it comes to representation in management and senior level positionsOrganizations need to be thinking about what changes are needed to support women more fully in the workforce and how to address the issue of gender equity. That begins with discussions for and with women on how to make progress towards inclusion and why it matters. 

In this webinar, female professionals and leaders from advertising and media agencies, discussed gender-based inequalities and the challenges facing women in advertising, media, and technology. The panel examined intersectionality, building inclusive workplaces, career paths, and how to better, support women in pursuit of their professional goals. Panelists also shared their unique perspectives related to their personal and professional journeys.


The Golden Age of TV is Over: Developing Effective Youth Public Education Campaigns in the Digital Era

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The media landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. When broadcast television was king in the 2000s, traditional mass media was a proven tactic for youth public education efforts designed to reduce tobacco initiation. However, the rise of digital media and mobile devices have led to permanent shifts in the ways that people consume and engage with media and brands. Today’s youth have traded traditional media like cable television for their personally curated digital experiences where they can follow influencers for fashion tips on social media or watch concerts in their favorite video games. As a result, teens are harder to find in this fragmented and crowded media landscape. Meanwhile, growing calls for privacy regulation are leading to imminent changes for the marketing industry. What does this all mean for public education efforts targeting youth audiences?

In this webinar, health communicators and digital marketers from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products and their partner advertising and media agencies for The Real Cost campaign,  discuss youth tobacco public education programs with this backdrop. Watch to learn how FDA and others are addressing the challenges presented by the digital media landscape, including how to use media to find teens and capture their attention long enough to deliver public education messages.

Speakers included Gem Benoza, Director, Division of Public Health & Education with the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products; Benjamin D'Agostino, Media Strategy Director with Initiative; Suzanne Santiago, EVP, Director of Business Leadership with FCB New York; and Merrybelle Guo, Health Communications Specialist at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

 The free webinar was held on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 from 12:00 to 1:10 pm Eastern Time.



Communicating on COVID-19 Vaccination – Past, Present, and Future

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This free member webinar was held on Wednesday, September 1st, 2021. 

The push for COVID-19 vaccination in the US represents one of the largest and most consequential public health interventions in the nation’s history.  For the past eight months, a diverse array of health communicators have been leading comms and social marketing programs at the local, state, and national levels designed to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake, with an aim of improving vaccine confidence among the ‘wait-and-see’ while mitigating the effects of disinformation being spread about the vaccines.

What have we learned?  What do we now need to prioritize?  How should we plan for new contingencies or challenges that the future may hold?  And how might all these learnings be applied to health comms initiatives outside the realm of COVID?  In this webinar, panelists from the Ad Council will share their insights and experiences addressing these questions, with an eye to providing pragmatic, real-world recommendations, and allowing substantial time for Q&A with attendees.

Panelists include Charysse Nunez, Insights Lead on the Ad Council’s vaccination education initiative; and Tony Foleno & Catherine Chao, SVP & VP for Strategy & Evaluation at the Ad Council.

Communicating About Disparities to Achieve Health Equity

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This free member webinar was held on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

Related Resources

The panelists discussed the following resources during the webinar.


Stock photos

COVID resources


About the Webinar 

Communicating about health can be a challenge, especially to those populations disproportionately impacted by disease. Access to care, social injustice, and health disparities further complicate how health communicators ensure that health messages are accurate, accessible, timely, and culturally sensitive.  

The Society is pleased to present this conversation about the critical role health communication plays in improving health outcomes and addressing health disparities. Panelists will explore practical approaches to developing and delivering health information that raises awareness, changes behavior, and helps achieve health equity. 

Panelists include 

  • Belinda Gaston, Principal Associate, Health Communications, Westat, and Founder, Comms Noire - Moderator
  • Kim Blessing, Vice President, Kauffman & Associates
  • LaTroya Hester, Director of Communications, Center for Black Health and Equity and Founder, Comms Noire
  • Leisha McKinley-Beach, National HIV Consultant
  • Alison Rodden, CEO, Hispanic Communications Network


Meet the Panelists 

Belinda Gaston, Principal Associate, Westat, Moderator

Belinda is a strategic communications expert with nearly 20 years of experience leading public health programs. She works with federal agencies, state and local health departments, and nonprofits, providing expertise in strategic planning, partnerships, community engagement, and training and technical assistance. Belinda has a BA in English from Emory University and an MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  


Kim Blessing, Vice President, Kauffman & Associates (KAI)

Kim is KAI’s vice president for communications and has more than 13 years of experience developing communication programs related to education, public health, safety, and support for vulnerable populations. Kim oversees a variety of federal and private outreach projects for KAI—an American Indian- and woman-owned firm dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable populations—including one designed to increase participation by American Indians and Alaska Natives in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services programs. She has master’s degree in rhetoric, composition, and technical communication from Eastern Washington University.


LaTroya Hester, Director of Communications, The Center for Black Health and Equity

LaTroya Hester is the director of communications at The Center for Black Health and Equity, a national nonprofit concerned with health equity and improving health outcomes for African Americans.  She currently manages events and communications for The Center for Black Health and Equity’s State of Black Health National Conference and No Menthol Sunday. As a passion project, she also runs MediaWoke, a media literacy program for the church. LaTroya received her ABJ and MA degrees from The University of Georgia.


Leisha McKinley-Beach, National HIV/AIDS Consultant

Leisha McKinley-Beach is founder and CEO of Cush Health Impact and and serves as a consultant on HIV and other health issues that affect Black communities, specifically Black women. Earlier in her career, Leisha was HIV Prevention Program Manager, Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness; Director of Technical Assistance and Stakeholder engagement, Black AIDS Institute; HIV Prevention Director, Georgia Department of Community Health; and Prevention Program Supervisor, Florida Department of Health. She has developed and launched an HIV testing initiative, oversaw development of Atlanta’s HIV prevention plan, and engaged faith-based communities in the HIV response. Leisha has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a master’s degree from the University of West Florida.


José López Zamorano, Director of Public Affairs, Hispanic Communications Network (HCN)

Since 2009, José has served as one of HCN’s lead creative specialists. He develops original executions for radio, print, and digital platforms – as well as providing high profile TransCreations for HCN’s government and nonprofit client campaigns. His creative work spans from scripting radio PSAs for Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health to TransCreating Spanish-language websites for the country’s most visible nonprofit brands, such as LIVESTRONG™. José has been involved in public issues for more than 25 years, and has led multimedia productions and multi-disciplinary / multi-platform news ventures. His experience includes the creation, development and placement of TV and radio programs catering to US Spanish-speakers and foreign audiences.