Tweet Tweet for gaining health knowledge via Twitter

While I’m still skeptical that large numbers of Caribbean people are using the microblogging service, those who do should take advantage of the volume of knowledge available and join the the many online conversations going on about health.

https://twitter.com/#!/SoroyaJulian/status/162670107234009088

For the third week now, PAHO’s eHealth (#esac; 7PM EST) team has been hosting weekly “What is Public eHealth?” tweet chats about eHealth, mHealth and various new media approaches to reducing health inequalities across Latin America and the Caribbean.

And coming up on Monday, January 30, at 2PM EST, the director of the  U.S.’s Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, (@DrFriedenCDC) will host a twitter chat abut cervical cancer. This is timely and relevant because cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cause of cancer in women in the world. research is ongoing to assess the prevalence of cervical cancer in our region. All women are at risk for cervical cancer. And, it is preventable.

So, will you be chatting it up on Twitter?

Andre Robb to Rep Caribbean in UNAIDS ‘CrowdOutAIDS’ Campaign!

The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is using a non traditional method called crowdsourcing to develop the new UNAIDS secretariat strategy. Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call (Jeff Howe).

24 year old Andre Robb of Jamaica will join 9 other young adults from around the world, who have been selected as a part of this process. They will form a committee which will spend the next couple of weeks in training, analyzing the data, then using various online tools to collaborate on the development of the strategy.

Andre has worked for the government and civil society on Youth Development, HIV programmes and comprehensive sexuality education programmes in Jamaica. Andre’s advocacy in his country allows him to represent young people on local and international committees and working groups. He is now committed to building social innovation and social entrepreneurship among young Caribbean change makers. Follow him on Twitter:@robbizle7. No doubt Andre will be seeking to advocate for our region’s specific needs in this strategy, but be sure to tweet him and let him know your thoughts.

Meet the entire #CrowdOutAIDS Drafting Committee members: http://shar.es/WRADI

Got Twitter? Join the #esac chat tonight

Hey,

The folks over at PAHO’s Public eHealth Innovation and Equity in Latin American and the Caribbean (esac) are hosting their weekly eHealth chat this evening. Join the Twitter conversation to learn how we can harness emerging technologies to reduce health disparities across the region.

https://twitter.com/#!/eSACproject/status/159406188021293056

 

 

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CARICOM SG (second from left) poses with Dr Jerome Walcott, CARPHA's Implementation Program Manager (left), the Hon Denzil Douglas, PM of St Kitts and Nevis (centre), Dr Mirta Roses, PAHO Director (second from right) and Dr Edward Greene, Special Adviser, CARPHA (at right) , at the Second Annual Partners Conference which opened in Washington, June 13, 2011.

This was the concluding thought from Dr. Denzil Douglas, after this weeks partner’s conference in support of the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency. I saw it at the end of a press release on CARICOM’s website. To me, this phrase creates the set-up for a perfect Tweet. Yet, when I search CARICOM on Twitter, I come up blank. Try finding a video of recent Caribbean-related public health events on Youtube…there are none. CARICOM does not exits there either. The travesty continues when you visit their homepage. There are no links to social networking sites. For blue box with a F for Facebook; no little birds inviting you to follow them. Not even the option to “Add This” or “Share”.

There was another press release announcing today’s CARICOM conference focusing on increased youth involvement in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Did you know it was going on?. I can’t help but think we are missing a large part of youth population just by how we go about communicating with them.  Now, I’m the first to always admit that social media is not the end all be all and that the digital dividedoes exist. However, anecdotally, we know that young Caribbean people access the Internet extensively. It’s well known outside the western developed world that access to the internet is not always tied to a computer…and that in many parts of the world, people are more likely to use their mobile phones to access the internet. Therefore, it’s important to communicate in such a way that allows for quick upload of webpages and to easy browsing. Social media sites are among the most visited on mobile phones. So, why does CARICOM, the premiere agency for regional policy making communicate with it’s public via those channels?

One of the first things I learned in studying communication was that the only message is the message received. Therefore, if CARICOM continued to communicate through the same channels while it’s young population gravitates to something else, not only is there a disconnect; this represents to many missed opportunities. I still support traditional media. But, if we want young people to be engaged, we have to reach them where they hang out; where they exit. This is about expanding the public sphere, of which access to accurate and quality information is vital. So CARICOM, I challenge you to rewrite your own communication history along with that of Caribbean public health history. After all, these tools are not just important for delivering messages about what you are doing. They become vital in also delivering important disease prevention, risk reduction and disaster preparedness messages as well.

So, while we are rewriting Caribbean public health history, wouldn’t it do us good to keep up with technologies that impact health? What do you think is holding CARICOM back? Do they lack the expertise to put together a webpage with information on how to connect with the organization online? Is it a matter of human resources or finances? Should CARICOM have a dedicated social media strategist? Or, is this just a waste of time and money? Share your thoughts below.

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I’m always intrigued by the intersection of new media/new technology and public health. And this past week, leading to the 30th anniversary of the first reports AIDS case, Emory University unveiled a new website: AIDSVu.org. Using data from local HIV testing sites, county, state and national HIV data, the website shows an interactive map of the United States with county-level HIV rates for adults/adolescents per 100,000.

One weakness of the site is that there is no information for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, there is hope that the site will include such information at a later date. Additionally, the interactive map has potential to be a global resource with the inclusion of surveillance data from across the Caribbean and the world. My health communication professor at the University of Southern California espoused the importance of data representation for public health and healthcare. Seeing this website, I am better able to understand why he strongly believes that any data communicated should be done in such a way that is not only informative but that can be easily digested by the lay public.

So, what’s the importance of this map for Caribbean audiences? It’s important because one can look at the map to see where Caribbean populations live and try to extrapolate the rate of HIV in that area. As the website noted, caution should be taken when interpreting this map because it included the prison populations–reported at the country level–which may increase the rate on that county. Nevertheless, the ability of the map to communicate the who and where people are affected in there.

What do you think of this interactive tool? How else can this technology be used?