Archive for the ‘health’ Tag

Make health and wellness a resolution that you can keep

20090106-fekgdrqs9hn4117s1w57mmgsgmNew Year’s resolutions are easier said than done. A partnership of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications aims to ease the pressure with Healthy Monday. Healthy Monday will be a weekly series of national health observances on – you guessed it – each Monday of this year designed to deliver evidence-based health campaign to reduce factors related to leading causes of death for Americans: poor diet and inactivity, smoking, and alcohol misuse.

I really like how this campaign has incorporated ways for individuals to take action as well as organizations to coordinate events and meetings. Activities such as the Monday Mile encourage participants to increase physical activity and you can get some support (and incorporate social persuasion to promote adherence) by starting and/or joining a Move It Monday club. My major criticism is that they seemed to have missed an opportunity to include elements of social networking. It would be great even if they had pointed out tools such as Google Calendar, Meetup and others to help groups coordinate better at the community level or encourage individuals not associated with the community to take on the responsibility of starting a group.


World AIDS Day 2008

The subject of mobile phones for health is one that I have become increasingly interested in over time. Over half of the people living in developing countries currently have mobile phones, and that percentage is growing rapidly. The rule of thumb concerning Innovation with the use of mobile phones seems to be expect the unexpected. The versatility of mobile phones holds the promise of a dramatic improvement in the overall state of health of the populations.

Africa Aid creates intimate partnerships that take the large-scale issues of extreme poverty and scales them down to a manageable community level. MDNet is Africa Aid’s newest initiative to create free mobile phone physician networks within countries in Africa, helping to advance the transfer of medical knowledge between physicians in Africa. As an MDNet officer, I work remotely to coordinate planning and implementation of programmatic goals and research stakeholders and resources in target countries.

The proliferation of mobile phones is starting to have a real impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS. Project Masiluleke in South Africa is using mobile phones to deliver health information directly to individuals. SMS text messages could increase treatment adherence for patients with HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases that require regular treatment. In the United States, sending a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) will allow you to find an HIV testing site near you.

It’s truly refreshing to feel that the possibilities are endless. Much of the general public’s knowledge of HIV focus on the devastating human impact of the epidemic. It is just as important to acknowledge that we do have the will and ability to fight back.

Universal Health Care Series: The Inevitability Argument

This post is Part V in a series exploring reasons to support universal health care.

It would be nice if we could wave a bureaucratic magic wand to make problems go away. It would be even nicer if the antidote to the health care crisis was strengthening the freedom of choice that the market affords and if this actually led to greater equality. Unfortunately, freedom and equality are a bit like oil and vinegar; they don’t mix especially well.

I know that I am not old enough to remember Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reform the health care system. But the video below brings back some characters familiar to many of you.

Harry and Louise fought to hold on to the health care system in 1993. Fifteen years later, those same characters lament their short-sightedness. Do we want to be in Harry and Louise’s shoes 15 years from now? The current system is on a collision course for failure; it is just a matter of when.

Growth in health care costs consistently outpace the rate of inflation, yet consumers have little to show for the money spent. Health insurance companies continue to find technicalities and other superficial reasons to deny care to consumers who pay the high premiums. People are being left behind with little or no coverage. God forbid you have a preexisting condition, especially a chronic one. The safety net for children’s health and safety has almost disappeared. With the current administration’s implicit blessing for increased privatization, doctors are dropping off the Medicare rolls. Even supposedly non-for-profit health systems are wolves in sheep’s clothing, often driving up the costs of care.

While individuals fare progressive worse under the private health care system, pharmaceutical companies have never been better. For all the supposed motivation the free market give them to engage in research and development, it appears that plastering their logos from here to Timbuktu is more of a financial priority. When you consider the human cost of these lopsided priorities (high drug costs, overprescription, and decreased medical research in the private sector), you have to wonder why people are fighting so hard to keep privatized health care. Who do you think the consumer will want to clean up the mess?

What health activists can learn from environmentalists

Public health and environmentalism are alike in that both activists for both issues address complex global problems characterized by interdependence and the need to catalyze collective action. That might be where the similarities end. Here are some of the observations that I have as the Silent Spring has exploded into going green.

photo courtesy of leighblacknall

photo courtesy of leighblackall

The value of small individual steps to cause collective action

Back in the dark ages when I took my first psychology class, we studied a number of techniques for persuasion. One that is particularly applicable in getting individuals involved in social change is called the foot in the door technique. You make a small request that is easy for the person to fulfill. Later, you make additional requests that gradually escalate the amount of time and resources required to complete the task.

Going green has found at least 50 ways to get their foot in the door and engage individuals to change their behavior for the health of the planet, most of which cost little or no money and do not take an inordinate amount of time to complete. Activism in health has focused on personal responsibility and personal behavior changes without taking in consideration how simple actions can be harnessed for collective action.

The relationship between emotion and rationality and its effect on change

When you see photos and video of regions affected by climate change, it stirs up feelings of sympathy for the people affected. Visual elements such as graphs easily explain the science behind climate change. Environmental activists can visually convey their messages, simultaneously appealing to emotions that spark action and avoid the quicksand of explaining terminology.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to explain obstetric fistula or other related medical maladies that plague the developing world but are completely preventable. Medical explanations rob issues of the emotional impact necessary to prompt action and the visuals are certainly not easy to portray to the general public.

The elusive cool factor

The reason why iPods are the number one music player is not because they are necessarily superior. They have that elusive IT Factor. Climate change has that IT Factor that makes people want to evangelize about their beliefs and actions. Al Gore has made fighting climate change not only social acceptable but socially desirable. People are literally green with envy about others’ ability going green. What has started out to be a counterculture message has all the hallmarks of social climbing combined with hard science developing innovative tools. After all, there is a Digg category dedicated to the news stories that puts the spotlight on the issue.

If you look at the Digg category on health, you’re likely to find more bad news about smoking or how sex really is good for your health. You won’t see the latest popular celebrity supporting a health cause with the exception of supporting HIV prevention for some. While Bono pops up occasionally with sunglasses that seems to be permanently attached to his head, it’s not socially desirable to advocate for access to adequate water and sanitation to prevent diarrhea, one of the causes of mortality in children under 5. Technology and innovation in health are not missing; awareness of developments in the public tends to be low.

Appealing to personal responsibility and pride

An appeal to personal responsibility for the overall state of health of the population has not been explored in public health. There is something to be said about tapping into the sense of common humanity whether through human rights or a different paradigm. Personal responsibility for taking care of the earth is a religious duty described in the Bible. Caretaking for the environment is also a form of patriotism in encouraging protection of your country’s natural resources. Fostering this same sort of personal connection to not only one’s personal state of health but the need to improve and maintain the infrastructure that supports the public’s health.

Can health activists take a page from An Inconvenient Truth and make access to good health a popular social movement?

Interesting Links of the Week

Nonprofit Link of the Week

Young nonprofit professionals, take note. Heather Carpenter at Nonprofit Leadership 601 highlights reasons why graduate school is still a good choice for nonprofit professional development.

Public Health Link of the Week

Technology, Health and Development has done a wonderful job aggregating links of the growing uses of mobile phones in global health. This week was Part II and they intend to have a third follow up as well. Mobile phones and health promises to deliver some interesting innovations in helping the poorest of the poor have access to quality health care.

Social Media Link of the Week

Viewzi makes searching the Web visually appealing and interesting. I kind of see this site as a mashup of StumbleUpon and Google. It may not have the perfect search algorithms, but it could be interesting to stumble across media and other materials that are related to what you are looking for.

Video of the Week

Music for Life and Red Cross teamed up together to produce a campaign to raise funds to increase access to drinkable water. I think it is a creative campaign using viral techniques on mainstream media to raise awareness. Check out the video below to learn more.