What can the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ teach us? In a way, everything.

CDC's approach has a lot of teaching potential

Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan set the Web on fire recently with his “Zombie Apocalypse” post on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s CDC Health Matters Blog.

The hook: A tongue-in-cheek advisory May 16 warning people to prepare for an onslaught of the flesh-eating undead, as Alice Lipowicz reported in Federal Computer Week.

The post, complete with an abridged, illustrated history of zombies, raced up the charts on Google News and Twitter. A “Zombie Apocalypse,” apparently, is something a lot of people are looking for, at least on search engines.

And how does one prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse? The same way, it turns out, that you would prepare for a pandemic disease outbreak, three-foot snowfall or plague of locusts: Stock up on water, food, medicine, clothes and so on, and keep your important documents handy.

That, of course, was Kahn’s real purpose — to remind people to take the time for emergency preparedness — and with the Zombie Apocalypse, he found an ingenious way to draw people to a government site devoted to public health.

Kahn, an M.D., obviously has his finger on the pulse (and that would be the pulse in the neck) of the American public, much of which has a fascination with undead creatures like vampires and zombies.

He’s on to something. Zombies are hip. Zombies are cool. People (heart) zombies. People emoticon zombies. Why, exactly, is hard to say, but it might just be because we act like them half the time. It was no accident that George Romero set “Dawn of the Dead” in a suburban shopping mall.

For whatever reason, if zombies can prompt people to learn about emergency preparedness, they could be a great teaching tool in other areas, too. Kids would probably go for zombie math. You could have zombie flu shots. Zombie voter registration drives. Patch your software to protect against zombies — actually, we already have that; doesn’t always work. Zombie-proof home improvement. The list is endless.

Who knows, they might even replace the “Dummies” books (“Investing for Zombies,” “Organic Gardening for Zombies,” “The 15-Minute Yoga Workout for Zombies”), which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Mon, May 23, 2011 Danny Allen DC

It's great to see a government agency blog using creativity and cleverness to engage its audience on serious issues. While so many agencies dither over taking stutter steps into engaging with the public through social media, a couple of key agencies are lapping the field. I hope that rather than a rush of zombie-related government engagement initiatives, we see different examples of the kind of creativity that Dr. Khan used to the advantage of CDC.

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