Multimedia for Health? But I Can’t Draw Anything!

What a pain! Finally you grasp this social networking thing, and maybe you have a blog, and now everyone thinks you’re boring because there’s no funny graphics or public health cat videos. Unfortunately, the last time you did artwork was in the third grade, and it was with fingerpaint. What’s a busy public health professional to do? Some of you might reach for stock photographs or royalty-free sources, but many such services can be quite costly to a small organization, and even those that let you pay by the picture can add up. (Please, don’t rip off images you’re not entitled to use or that don’t clearly indicate you can.)

Fortunately you’re not the only one with this problem, and there are now many great options for getting health images, clip art and other kinds of multimedia that you can easily load into your paint program of choice (even Microsoft Paint!) to title and post. The generosity of photographers and artists, as well as work from U.S. government agencies which are almost always public domain, means more choice for you if you can’t ante up for a paid option. Here are some of our picks:

  • If you’re into the whole meme craze (and we definitely are; see our previous post on public health memes for blogging), many of the automated meme generators such as Meme Generator and imgFlip out there also have a decent library of available, if not particularly health-specific, images. Some are of questionable quality, and a few of even more questionable provenance (caveat user and mind the NSFW), but if you’re also comedy-impaired there’s quite a few already ready to go and some are hilarious. Here’s a great one we didn’t do that’ll fit your local Purple Ribbon campaign!
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has many great image sources. Probably the best is the CDC Public Health Image Library, or as we affectionately call it, “PHIL.” Whatever you’re looking for, PHIL probably has it, ranging from pandemics and disaster preparedness to everyday activities, environmental health and general interest, and often even at print-quality resolutions too. There is also a decent collection of video. Keep in mind, however, that PHIL includes both federal government originated resources (which are public domain) and images taken by private citizens (which aren’t always), so be sure to read their informative FAQ if you’re not sure about an image you’d like to use.
    • (You say you’re looking for something a little more general? The CDC can help you there too: their Healthy Places page has a great list of links to other groups and federal agencies with government photo archives. Many of these are public domain and free to use as well.)
  • Not to be outdone, the Pan American Health Organization (a branch of the World Health Organization) has many freely useable images in their PAHO Flickr stream. Although many are specific to PAHO/WHO work, there are quite a few that make nice general backdrops and provide a good source of international images. Almost all can be used by non-profits and for other non-commercial purposes with credit to the PAHO; check individual images for details.
  • Need something that’s a little more art and a little less photo? Many clip art sites do have a free tier you can choose from, and some specialize in public domain clip art such as Public Domain Vectors. The quality can vary a bit from image to image, and unfortunately many of these sites don’t distinguish well between health care and public health, but there are some excellent examples on this site and others which can add a little spice to your presentations, posts and images.
  • Last but not least, here’s a resource for those of you who both need a source of images and something to give back to. Knowledge For Health’s Photoshare lets you select from a wide variety of primarily world health images which are all free for non-profit and educational use. How do they get these images, you ask? From folks (like you?) who contribute them. Free registration is required for non-watermarked images.

Don’t believe that these can’t be used for professional purposes? Every picture on this blog post came from the sources we recommended.

Cat scratch fever: now there‘s a great public health cat video. Post your other great sources in the comments.


3 thoughts on “Multimedia for Health? But I Can’t Draw Anything!

  1. Cameron, could you please upload a cat scratch fever cat video? 🙂

    I thought this post was great for the following reasons:
    1) Excellent tone. The writing sounded very personable and friendly, quite similar to a spoken conversation, and also authoritative on the subject matter.
    2) It provided multiple examples of places to get different sorts of material and linked everything thoroughly. I appreciated the plea/warning about not stealing copyrighted work, as well.
    3) Decidedly public health oriented. I thought the inclusion of the CDC, PAHO, and Knowledge for Health sites was great as it made it feel much more tailored to the audience. I’d rather go directly to these sites than to one of the generic ones and try to sift through tons of unrelated photos.

    One potential way to expand the post a bit would be to link to a couple of examples of public health websites/social media sites using multimedia effectively. The post itself is a good example, but sometimes it’s nice to see in a real world context as well.

  2. This is great and I have been reminded already several times to pay attention to if I am using sources legitimately. That said, something that would be useful for us to know (meaning those of us who are are still trying to figure out a lot of the social media basics) is the specifics of crediting photos and if that suffices as permission to use them. The many health blogs I have looked at leads me to believe this is true, but I actually don’t know the details since I would assume someone wants to be paid at the end of the day (Something I need to look up!) It is very useful to have the list of “safe” image sites though and I will see if I can use something for my next post. For me personally, I like a light, humored tone when I am reading something for pleasure, but prefer less of it when I am reading something for information; I want to get what I came for and move on without the extras. I may be in the minority in this, I’m not sure. As always though, you have great resources to share!

  3. Cameron, love your humor coming out here. This is a great compilation of place to get images particularly for public health issues (which is what this guidebook is all about) I know I will be using some of these resources in my own work. One thing that might have added to this would be to give site recommendations for info-graphics, since this seems to be a new movement in public health images.

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