Monday, August 3, 2009

Governments use YouTube to keep their citizens, and the world, informed about H1N1

As part of the Communications, Public Policy and Government Affairs team at Google, we often get the opportunity to work with local governments on ways in which online platforms can help relay important information to a wide, public audience.

Lately, we have been working with a team of Google volunteers and health officials from Mexico and Argentina to help them set up YouTube channels that inform the citizenship about H1N1 official measures and communications. Videos have proven to be a very powerful tool in providing a clear message in this specific area. When the H1N1 flu started to become widespread in Mexico, people were desperate for more information. Many of the official government sites were overwhelmed by the sudden influx of visitors and sometimes the information the public needed wasn't available.

Within a few days the Mexican Secretary of Health was able to set up a YouTube channel to post daily updates from the Secretary of Health. Additionally, the Mexican President posted several messages to the whole country on the channel, and later created an official YouTube channel to communicate with the public. On that channel you can also connect to the federal government's Twitter feed.

One of the tools that proved most beneficial was YouTube's closed-captioning feature. Since H1N1 first spread in Mexico, a lot of international interest was focused on the region. Therefore, the use of captions and the integration with Google Translate made it possible to watch the video with subtitles in one of the 30 available languages in the translation tool.

In the past few weeks in Argentina, the number of documented cases of H1N1 has risen, prompting the Ministry of Health to set up a YouTube channel to provide the citizens with useful information about the flu, its prevention, and treatment
. Also, the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) has launched its own YouTube channel with many informative videos. Google has also set up landing pages to consolidate informational resources from many official sources, including those on YouTube.

YouTube has proven to be a powerful tool in providing easy access to important information about public health.

Posted by Pedro Less Andrade (Google Public Policy and Government Affairs, Latin America) and Ricardo Blanco (YouTube Communications, Latin America)


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