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Two information dissemination approaches for public health decision makers: encyclopaedia and fire alarm
  1. Bernard C K Choi1,
  2. Anna Orlova2,
  3. Marsha Marsh3,
  4. Nabil Issa4,
  5. Howard Morrison5
  1. 1Population and Public Health Branch, Health Canada, AL no 6701A, 120 Colonnade Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1B4, Canada; Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto; and Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa, Canada;
  2. 2Department of Informatics, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA
  3. 3Center For Public Health Preparedness, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; Environmental Health Sciences Program, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA
  4. 4Information Systems, National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  5. 5Population and Public Health Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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    Ideally, information gathered from research and surveillance is summarised into evidence, which is then disseminated to decision makers to help develop programmes and policies for prevention and control activities. Two information dissemination approaches are identified: encyclopaedia and fire alarm.

    The traditional way of disseminating research and surveillance findings to decision makers is the “encyclopaedia approach”. An encyclopaedia is a book of knowledge, a work that contains information on all branches of knowledge usually in articles arranged alphabetically, often by subject. Thus in a public health context, there are reports, atlases, web sites, and other media of communication to describe and explain disease burden, economic burden, risk factors, and other pertinent information.

    In this era of knowledge explosion, public health decision makers are overwhelmed by the amount of information available. Research findings and surveillance reports are published every day. Thus there is a …

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