In search of…apps for health

Can someone please create an app that shows HIV testing sites across the region. I am very serious. I started thinking about this around the time of this year’s Caribbean Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day. (As an aside, I think we should include, and advertise, other STD testing as well.) The Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership and their LiveUp campaign did an excellent job of publicizing the dates and locations for testing. I saw notices pop up in my timeline and on my twitter feed. I knew which websites to go to for locations, and kept up-to-date on changing venues. We even wrote about it on this site. (more…)

Healthy Caribbean 2012: Rallying for action on NCDs (Part 1)


On May 28 and 29 2012 I had the opportunity to attend the Healthy Caribbean Coalition‘s (HCC) Non Communicable Disease (NCD) PreventionImage and Strategic planning workshop for civil society organizations, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston Jamaica. About 13 Caribbean territories were present at the workshop, with over 100 representatives from Ministries of Health, various non governmental societies (e.g. diabetes and cancer associations), the private sector, international and regional agencies and academia.

ImageOf special note in attendance was Jamaican Minister of Education, the Honourable Ronald Thwaites who set the tone of the event early, declaring his Ministry’s full commitment to partner with the HCC. He spoke about the “bulla and bag juice’ culture in school feeding in Jamaica and it probable impacts on a child’s poor educational and health outcomes. He stated his intention to address these and other issues this and requested support from the Coalition for the development of the education curriculum which will include messages and activities to persuade students about the advantages of healthy living.

Sir George Alleyne, who, by the end of the workshop was declared Patron of the HCC, advocated for “the NCD approach” which is a “determined, sustained effort to address NCDs  subsuming sectoral and organizational hubris to a united collective focus on the task of prevention and control of NCDs in the Caribbean”.

Communications lessons coming from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition campaign:

The campaign of the HCC has been not only one the the best branded health campaigns of the region, but also innovative and participative.

The “Get the Message” campaign was a mobile phone text message campaign started by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition to raise awareness about NCDs and the UN High-level Meeting. Working with only volunteers, the campaign set out to get 1 million text messages in support for NCDs from people in 17 Caribbean countries. People simply had to text “yes” to a specific number and by partnering with mobile phone providers, there was no cost involved. The campaign ran television and radio PSAs, worked with local radio stations and concert venues, leveraged Facebook and Twitter, and staged two all day text-a-thons. Although the goal was to reach 1 million text messages, in reality, nothing like this has been done before. After five months, they have received over 460,000 text messages.Considered a success, the organizers offer key takeaway points for people wishing to engage in similar efforts:
1.  Any campaign should educate their audience in addition to asking them to engage – people cannot only ask their audience to “text, text, text” but instead ask them after teaching them about the issue.
2.  Also the campaign tailored its messaging to the individual needs of the 17 countries involved. Because a campaign like this is likely to involve NGOs, volunteers, and several for-profit companies, key stakeholders should be identified early on and their roles established. Although new, raising awareness about NCDs through the Get the Message campaign proved successful and hopefully reproducible in other parts of the world.

[adapted from Procor website)

In Part 2 of this post I will explore some topics relevant to health communications in the region which came out  of this meeting.

Facebook got there first. So what?

Last week, Facebook announced a new app feature that allows users to see their friends’ organ donation status.

Shorty after that, posted an article about Xorgan (pronounced Zor-Gan), a social mobile app meant to increase the rate of blood and organ donation worldwide; it was being developed by St. Vincent-based entrepreneur Herbert (Haz) Samuel. Because Facebook launched their apps first, Samuel has decided to “move on to plan B” and possibly forgo development of his app.



How to participate in the UNAIDS CrowdOutAIDS strategy drafting!

As we discussed before in our earlier posts, we all have the opportunity to participate in the development  of the UNAIDS Crowdsourcing strategy. This short video explains how. Perhaps a good question to ask though is why? Why should I spend the time to make a contribution?

Here are some reasons:

1. Only you know the experience you have and what you think should be done to improve the situation. Whether you work for a non profit or the government (or wherever), your insight might be valuable and actually make a difference.

2. You might learn something from others by participating in the chat.

3. You can make contact with other participants from around the world.

4. You can ensure that the unique issues the Caribbean faces are addressed.

5. You can learn how to use a new collaborative tool (Google docs) you may have never used before.

6. Show Andre Robb, the Caribbean representative on the drafting committee some support!

Can you think of any more reasons?

Please visit to view the calendar and find out about the next live drafting sessions. Let’s make sure the Caribbean is well represented!

Gaming for health in the region

Last Thursday, I again joined the folks over at eSAC for their weekly tweet chats. I have to say, I really enjoyed the conversation. For me, one of the most interesting turns of the night was the discussion about digital literacy, health literacy and public ehealth.

The chat also touched on how people use various media in their everyday life, and whether these intersect with the health sector. For example, some young people use the internet daily, but never use it to look for health information.

This segment also got be thinking about how prevalent video games are in our society, and whether there are any interventions or programs in the region that uses video games for health promotion or disease prevention. I tried doing a general online search to find people or places for examples and came up with nothing. Well, I did come across an animation studio in Trinidad (as well at the animation program at the university of Trinidad and Tobago) that look to be doing some cool things. I did not find examples of any health projects but this is one lead I’ll continue to follow.

In the meantime, anyone interested in knowing more about this area, the talk below gives an excellent overview.

So, to all my CH people, do you know of any entity that is using any kind of video games/animation/claymation/ for health? If you are actively involved in any interactive projects addressing any health issue afflicting the region, we would love to share your project with our community.


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