TITLE: CDC World Wide Web Site

ACCESS: http://www.cdc.gov

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) homepage is attractive, compact, and its simplicity belies its wide-ranging information. Six radio buttons centered on the homepage divide it into sections. Four colorful rectangles near the bottom right provide clickable shortcuts to the MMWR, jEID, CDC prevention guidelines and CDC foundation. Clearly identifying the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases would help laypeople. On the upper right another rectangle labeled "Spotlight" (lamp icon), changes regularly to highlight topics like "STD Prevention Guidelines" or "Emerging Infectious Diseases". Three rectangles at the bottom center mark the "Search Engine", "Subscriptions" and "Other Sites". An icon identifies the CDC as part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Other areas provide address and telephone information, warnings about information use, and an e-mail feedback address.

The enormous amount of well organized information appeals to both laypeople and professionals. "About the CDC" clearly outlines its pledge and contains a breakdown of its centers and employees, a fascinating history and online tour (Global Health Odyssey), special teachers' lesson plans and tables of the agency's monetary justification by Congress. Non-frames, text or lower resolution versions are offered throughout the site and icons are attractive and sometimes animated.

"Media News" features a banner box listing separate telephone and fax numbers for the public or the media. It contains reports recently quoted in the news, newsletters, archives back to 1995, fact sheets, a timeline, and slide sets. Downloading options available include Adobe PDF, ASCII, HTML and Postscript format. File sizes are clearly indicated and paper subscriptions (i.e. "Emerging Infectious Diseases") are available. Despite the seriousness of its subject, there is considerable imagination, appeal and some humor employed in the presentation of materials. A color cartoon called "Dogs on Cruises"(1) shows two dogs discussing the potability of their cruise cabin's toilet bowl water!(2)

The "Travelers' Health" section contains literally life-saving information on current disease outbreaks, vaccination requirements, links to other health agencies and a clickable travel map. "Health Information" skillfully fulfills the CDC's mandate to prevent disease, covering general and Women's Health Risks, Teen Pregnancy, injuries, disabilities, and prevention. The CDC's general search engine for its entire site is easy to use and indispensable for so much information.

"Publications, Software and Other Products" includes hazardous waste information, publications of the CDC's National Centers (Chronic Disease, HIV, Infectious Diseases, Injury Prevention, Safety and Public Health) and free, downloadable software of public domain microcomputer programs for handling public health data. The National Center for Health Statistics section features the Statistical Export and Tabulation System (SETS) Designer Kit and the Public Health Training Network offers satellite videoconferences, print-based self study courses, multimedia series and videotapes, most fee-based.

"Scientific Data, Surveillance, Health Statistics and Laboratory Information" appeals particularly to the research community. Its own search engine, WONDER, which "provides query access to about 40 text-based and numeric databases for any disease and demographic group, text search facilities and document retrieval for ...Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(MMWR) from 1982 to the present and CDC Prevention Guidelines." The system requires either temporary or permanent registration options, with user ID's and passwords, and limits access according to registration level. It provides a somewhat mind-boggling number of search limitations for several databases including FARS (fatal accident reporting), SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results), CDP (Chronic Disease Prevention) and IRIS (Injury Research Information Service). Data use restrictions are clearly listed and user support is available. A huge resource list to other sources is also included, sorted by protocol (ftp, gopher, http, mailto, telnet, etc.)

Training, employment and funding opportunities round out the site. They include fellowships, research, training, grants, residencies and conferences. The CDC has developed a complex and seemingly inexhaustible site of information which successfully and artfully achieves its mission and goals.

(1) David Farley. University of Chicago (DOCTOR FUN - January 28, 1994).

(2) <http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/programs/sanit/vsp/images/images.htm> linking to http://sunsite.unc.edu:80/Dave/Dr-Fun/df9401/df940128.jpg

Elaine Hoffman
State University of New York, Stony Brook
March 1998

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