36607 Diverse Voices: The Office on Women's Health Blog

Valerie Borden, MPA, Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC

Background: When confronted with questions about their health, many women turn to the Internet. Whether the information they find there is reliable is another question entirely. That’s why the HHS Office on Women’s Health (OWH) provides women with accurate, easy-to-read health content that’s just a click away. Womenshealth.gov, OWH’s site for women, is the home to hundreds of topics — ranging from breastfeeding to sexually transmitted infections to heart disease.

Program background: While launching a blog may not be a new idea, OWH’s approach to populating the blog is unique. OWH uses its blog to connect with women in a personal way about the issues that matter to women, such as surviving sexual assault or struggling with a mental illness. These deeply personal topics need to be discussed non-clinically and authentically with firsthand accounts, something the government can’t always provide. In response to this problem, OWH invites partners — federal and nonfederal — to share their stories and perspectives on women’s health issues, increasing the number of topics on which OWH can provide expert, plain-language commentary and raising the blog’s and womenshealth.gov’s overall value. Inviting outside sources to write content for the blog also expands OWH’s partner network. A large, diverse network is key to helping OWH reach even more women. Partners who are featured on the blog promote it to their followers, driving more — and potentially new — traffic to womenshealth.gov. By highlighting organizations and individuals that women trust, OWH in turn increase its trustworthiness in readers’ eyes. OWH posts an average of six posts each month: two originals from office staff, two guest posts, and two cross-posts from other federal sites. To ensure timely content, OWH develops a 3-month editorial calendar that reflects upcoming observances and launches while leaving room for trending topics.

Evaluation Methods and Results: Since launching the OWH blog in October 2013, OWH has had many successes.

  • The blog has published a total of 93 posts, with the most popular post getting nearly 19,000 page views.
  • The blog has been featured on Huffington Post and cross-posted to Her Campus, MomsRising.org, and AIDS.gov.
  • The blog has featured guest authors such as Katie Koestner, the first survivor of date rape to speak out nationally and the founder of Take Back the Night. Notable high-profile government officials have included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Congresswoman Doris Matsui.
  • OWH regularly receives more requests to write guest posts it can accommodate each month.
  • More than 28,000 subscribers have signed up for the blog newsletter.

Conclusions: The blog is still a relatively new platform for OWH, and building engagement takes time. But this is one of the only places on womenshealth.gov where OWH can share personal perspectives while recognizing and spotlighting partners. By having a limited number of guest authors per month, the blog becomes coveted real estate.

Implications for research and/or practice: Blogs are a great platform for building a partnership database. Partners want to share their stories and can help reach the target audiences. They also help build credibility by providing audiences with reputable and relevant information.