Human Subjects and Your Own Internal Review Board

Our subjects in health and wellness communication are humans.  Humans read what we write.  Humans follow what we advise.  Humans buy what we promote.  That is a pretty heavy responsibility.

In his presentation to AMWA-Southeast about the CDC (Center for Disease Control), Dennis Tolsma MPH spoke about one of the CDC’s greatest blunder: The Tuskegee Syphillis Experiment.  Much has been written about it but, to boil it down, the research failed the people, the “human subjects”, involved in the study.

Bringing this blunder down to our own day-to-day functions, let it teach us that what we say matters.  When we communicate health information and education to people, real people, we are responsible for ensuring it is reliable, responsible, and never forget the potential human impact in our quest for sales, money, research.

Put in place your own IRB, internal review board, formal or informal.  Surround yourself with professionals who add expertise and perspective to your communication.  Surround yourself with people who have your clients’ best interests in mind.  Surround yourself with the people you serve to ensure you understand their needs, beliefs, culture, rights.  Never disconnect yourself from the latter group.  Pass your stuff through your IRB on a regular basis.  We all need reviewed, challenged, questioned.  It’s our responsibility to our fellow human beings.

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