A Letter to the Editor for Advocacy

Working on a project promoting eHealth: the use of Information and Communication for Technology (ICT) for health, I realized (as I searched online newspapers) how little information there was. I decided,  therefore, to put some information out there. The opportunity came for me when local journalists uncovered a lack of security for medical records in Jamaica’s two main public hospitals in Kingston. Here, I thought, I could make a case for electronic medical records, an area in eHealth.

I decided on a letter to the editor because:

1. It would be fast.

Because a letter to the editor is a simple opinion piece, I wouldn’t have to worry about carefully validated research or including the opinions of experts (interviews). All I would have to do it write my own opinion (in half an hour) and send it to the editor.

2. It was more likely to be published. This because the letter to the editor is specifically designed for participation from the public. Also the timeliness of the issue (the fact that it was responding to a recent lead story) would help.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120421/letters/letters1.html#.T5V1__XZ6P8.twitter

The letter ended up highlighted as Letter of the Day and I received 10 comments on the online story (which is great for starting a conversation on the matter). For being chosen for letter of the day I also received a prize of a book voucher, which I donated to a school.

Want to know the best time to have kids? There’s an app for that

Family planning goes digital! The Fertility App has been developed by Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC), and is described as the first app of its kind produced by a health care provider. The app has an ovulation calculator, which is connected to the calendar. This then syncs with the user’s device to send them alerts and reminders. The user can add appointments and medications and there is a full medical glossary explaining all the medical terms associated with both male and female fertility. There is also a full description of preconception supplements and medications and their effects on the body when trying to conceive.

Veronica Montgomery, Marketing Manager at BFC said, “The app has been developed with every couple in mind who have made the life changing decision to start a family, we hope it will help couples conceive more easily and that they won’t need fertility treatment. However, the app covers everything about natural and assisted reproduction so that couple’s are aware of treatment options as well.”  The app is available through Apple’s App Store.
Would you use an app such as this? If you are a healthcare professional working with families trying to conceive, is this something you would suggest they use?

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

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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, SilconeCaribe.com 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.

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So, what types of jobs are available in health communication?

A few days ago, while chatting with @soroyajulian, one  of the things that came up was the scope of health communication. Although the topic related to what we wanted to showcase on the blog, it did make me think more about the field in general and the people who work in it. Many health communication researchers and experts work to develop, implement and evaluate effective behavior change campaigns But, the field is much more than that. Areas of active interest today include ehealth applications and their implications, patient-provider communications, health advocacy and the media, impact of the media on health behavior, and communication inequities and health disparities. Some specialize in areas such as HIV/AIDS, others are cancer communication experts, and some at the intersection of environmental health and communication among other areas.

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