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Did you catch the latest E! True Hollywood Story this past weekend on health education and public health in America? …no? Okay well yeah it didn’t happen BUT wouldn’t that have been interesting? Among all the scandals, celebrities gone wild and famous crimes that get profiled on that show and on television in general – what do you think would happen if topics in health were shown?

Mainstream media is a powerful (albeit, changing due to the Web) force in the minds of the general population. Despite the often sensationalized news and recycled excitement of reality shows, people still tune into the television and get a “network sponsored education”. And we can’t forget about those people who still don’t log onto the Internet! Obviously the main reason people turn on the tube is to get entertained but every now and then, there are nuggets of value. How can the genuine health industry relay credible and helpful information to the general public through this venue?

In recent news, Oprah Winfrey revealed her battle with a thyroid condition that has caused her to gain weight and have problems with sleeping. Now, anyone who has heard of Oprah knows the amount of power that she wields in informing her niche demographic (91% women, average age of 45 – according to website viewers) and the great amount of attention to anything that appears on her show. Thanks to her public announcement, thyroid conditions have gained immeasurable publicity. According to Amy over at Diabetes Mine, thyroid disorders occur commonly in people with diabetes and especially with women (great for the target audience!).

I think there’s still merit in health promotion on television, stay tuned as I explore this topic some more…

High profile celebrities + television + health education/promotion = worthy cause?

—Helpful Links—

http://www.concernedjournalists.org/node/72
http://health.discovery.com/
http://www.oprah.com/adsales/audience.html
http://www.oprah.com/health/yourbody/slide/20071016/slide_yourbody_northrup_101.jhtml
http://www.eifoundation.org/

As a quick point to one of my heavy interests and what this blog will try to touch on regularly, is the topic of social media.

With all the buzz generated around websites like Facebook (my personal fave), MySpace, blogging, vlogging (video blogging) as well as terms like “tagging” and “posts” – does it actually mean much? Well in my opinion, very much so. Think of this phenomenon as a way in which to potentially reach out to people in a meaningful manner – sharing a ton of information and becoming more educated about things you’re interested in, from ideas and conversations, rather than a one dimensional “read me and this is the final word” way of reading a book.

There is so much still going on in this area so my recommendation would be to just dive in and start participating. I most definitely am not an expert but I do learn quickly and learning by doing is the best way to go with this.

I came across an e-book that pretty much sums up the main areas associated with social media – it’s aptly titled “What is Social Media?” Thanks to Digital Digressions for the link.

So a few weeks ago, one of the creative geniuses at the company I work for wrote on healthcare in the digital world, including a mention of a conference called Health 2.0. We know that Web 2.0 refers to the user-generated explosion on the Internet and all the conversations that abound – however, how is health incorporated into that stuff? Well, according to the Health 2.0 conference website:

Social networks are redefining relationships within communities in unanticipated and previously unimaginable ways. Web 2.0 tools – like blogs, wikis, podcasts, user-generated video and specialized search – are generating a fundamental shift away from the traditional flow of information as defined by payers, physicians, hospital systems, and suppliers. It is absolutely clear that we are at the start of a significant shift in demand from both consumers and providers for better information and easier ways to share experiences.

Stakeholders in health care must immediately begin to confront the decision of how to interact with these new technologies and networks, and potentially adopt and integrate them into their strategies for growth.

This is a great thing happening – allowing conversation around a very monolithic institution that most people either don’t understand properly or don’t want to understand (with all the negative press, who can blame them?). It was only a matter of time. The age of patient/consumer and health provider confusion is slowly coming to a close. Finally there will be conversation between health care provider and patient, patients with each other, physician to physician! I can only imagine what wealth of information and insight will come about for stakeholders in health care.

Oh yeah, the conference also has a Facebook group that I just joined. This is just plain awesome. Even though I missed this year’s conference, I’m hoping to make the March conference next year.

Web 2.0, meet the struggling and needy world of healthcare…don’t be shy!

*cue Chariots of Fire as the two entities run toward each other in slow motion while in a grassy field*

Well now that I got my happiness about University of MD’s new School of Public Health out the way, I want to introduce myself and what this blog will be about. For starters, my name is Andre and I’m a graduate of the University of Maryland – College Park (Go Terps!) and got my undergrad degree in Public and Community Health, hence the interest in health.

Prior to college, I was heavily involved in everything science and engineering related. I did internships and summer programs at places like the Naval Research Lab, Walter Reed and even NASA. I loved each and every one of those experiences! However, as I got to college, majoring in aerospace technology – I felt like something was missing. Making a long story short, I decided that I wanted to interact with people and not crunching numbers for the rest of my life. I’ve always been fascinated with medicine and health and figured that preventing disease would be a better use of my time than treating it.

So that’s pretty much how I got to this point – with the advances in technology, both personal and online, I figure that there has to be someway to make use of it to benefit the health of people across the globe. Whether we are giving out pedometers at a local health fair to make sure people keep track of their movement, implementing GIS software to track disease, or starting a conversation about our survival after a devastating disease – we are using technology to improve some aspect of health.

So in summary, this blog will look at how technology is making a difference to improve our health and well being. Contrary to popular belief, being healthy isn’t just about you – it’s about everyone working together (read: if I sneeze on you when I have a cold, you will also share in my misery).

So if I haven’t bored you to tears yet, here are ten more more things about yours truly:

  1. I’m a computer/web geek.
  2. I love the whole Web 2.0, social media revolution that’s going on – to me, there is alot of opportunity for good.
  3. I practiced Okinawan Goju-ryu karate in college and loved it (need to get that going again).
  4. I love pens.
  5. My greatest interests lay in public health/health education, technology, education and philanthropy.
  6. I’m married (I know, I know – your heartache will end soon, I promise).
  7. I read constantly – from personal finance books to accounts of infectious disease epidemics.
  8. I’m an information nut – which is why I read and surf the net all the time.
  9. I’m a former member of Eta Sigma Gamma (national health education organization) – hoping to re-up my membership.
  10. I’m half Jamaican and half Trinidadian. This is what I look like –> Andre

Til next time…

Well after much ballyhoo and hard work, I am VERY proud to say that the University of Maryland at College Park, my alma mater, has opened their very own School of Public Health! You can read more about the School here. This is especially cool since I graduated from the former College of Health and Human Performance, 2 years ago. According to President Mote:

“The new School of Public Health will be built on the considerable strengths of its predecessor, the College of Health and Human Performance, with a core mission of translating public health research and learning into healthy public policy. “No other public research university in the region has an accredited school of public health whose mission is focused on research and the applications of knowledge that directly benefits citizens in that area.”

The faculty at the school were exceptionally encouraging and a necessary component to my interest in health education, promotion and the field of public health. I can’t wait to see what great things the School will accomplish in the coming years. This is perfect timing as the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) are having their annual meetings in Washington DC in November. I’m sure they’ll find a way to promote that.

The Dean of the School, Dr. Bob Gold, is one of the smartest people I’ve met in the public health arena. He’s pretty cool because he is definitely one of those people who want to merge health education and technology together. Hopefully I’ll get to catch up with him soon! Here’s a picture of us at the 2004 SOPHE conference in DC (click to enlarge).

Me and Dr. Gold @ 2004 SOPHE Conference in DC

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