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News this week of the possible link between cell phones and cancer has been all the buzz across the global media landscape. The findings, reported by the World Health Organization found a possible link that radiation from cell phones may be carcinogenic. This is, of course, non conclusive. In a word where there are almost as many cell phones as there are people (Washington Post’s Post Tech put the number at move than five billion) cell phones are not juts ubiquitous, they have also become an essential part of daily life for many.

According to the Washington Post,

Cellphones are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, according to the panel organized by the World Health Organization. But an exhaustive, eight-day review of hundreds of studies concluded that the existing evidence is insufficient to know for sure. And because cellphones are so popular, further research is urgently needed, the experts said.

The phrasing “possibly carcinogenic” is on a Likert-type scale ranging from carcinogenic to probably not carcinogenic, and is considered the third-highest rating…just below “probably carcinogenic”.

Can anyone out the WHO and public health institutions tell the difference between “probably carcinogenic”  and “possibly carcinogenic”?  in media and communication studies, there is much research on how people ‘read’ the news and other mediated information. I do wonder, when you heard of this, what first came to mind? How many articles did you read on this topic? Did you jump to the conclusion that a “possible” link means one is eminent? Did the media/news sources help you come to that conclusion?

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/cell-phones-possibly-carcinogenic-who-says/2011/05/31/AGRktZFH_story.html?hpid=z1

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I am a huge fan of the research around using video games for health behavior and social change and this week marked the 7th annual Games For Health conference. The conference is part of the Games Beyond Entertainment Week, which included the Serious Games Festival and Virtual Worlds and Health Day.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneering Ideas blog did a wonderful series on posts on the week’s events. In one post with panelist Dan Baden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Public Health Practice, done for NewPublic Health, one of the questions focused on the ability of games to deliver health messages:

“NPH: What is the critical mass that you need in order for the games to be able to deliver public health messages?

“Baden: I think that they can be used to deliver public health messages at any size. But actually the number of people involved in games is enormous. The organizer of the conference was speaking in the same panel as I was in earlier today and was saying that of all demographic groups, only males over age 55 indicate that they watch more TV than use the computer. All the other demographic groups say they use the computer for multiple purposes and more than they watch TV. And the largest group of people to use what are called “‘casual games” is women between the age-mid 20s to mid 50s. There are lots of people that are doing this right now.”

Do you know anyone currently doing research using the concepts of serious games or games for health or other forms on interactive media? What about any developers in the Caribbean or of Caribbean origin? Share your thoughts on what issues are best addressed and which ones may not be good for games or simulation type interventions.

When the U.S. issues a recall, do Caribbean governments follow?

That was the question on my mind a few days ago after hearing that one of the most popular twitter pages was the FDArecalls (more than 150,000 followers) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This help disseminate the information when the government issues a recall.

Considering that many of the products sold in the region come from the United States, does your country issue a similar recall? What types of procedures are implemented when recalls are issued? How do government agencies notify their public of a recall? Do customers receive exchanges or refunds on their product? If you bought a product in the U.S. and sent it to a relative in the Caribbean, and a recall was issued, do you alert your relative?

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BBC Health is reporting that several Japanese doctors wrote to the Lancet, telling of how they used social media sites such as Twitter to communicate with their patients during and after the earthquake.

“Forming a supply chain for such drugs in the earliest stages of the disaster was difficult; however we found that social networking services could have a useful role.”

Social media is becoming an important communication element before and after disasters. Communicators are using the tools to alert public about approaching disasters, and then using those tools to get assistant to survivors. For the Japanese doctors, the goal was not to treat emergency cases, since hospitals tended to patients with urgent needs. Instead, they needed to get medicines to those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and the like.

Since the Caribbean is prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters, are our telecommunications infrastructure reliable enough to operate in their aftermath? Are enough of our citizens engages in social media, such that in case of emergencies, officials are able to communicate with them? Do those who respond to natural disasters–healthcare workers, law enforcement etc–know what communication sites their publics are using?

It may seem arbitrary to want to know where your citizens congregate online. But that knowledge proves invaluable in natural or unnatural disasters.