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Introducing a wealth of ideas for new online health-related publications

Entrepreneurs and philanthropists take note: below are some terrific ideas for new health-related online publications.

Croakey recently put out a call on behalf of the Public Interest Journalism Foundation for ideas for online publications covering health-related areas of need.

One of the pitches will be developed during a session at the New News conference, which will again be held as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, on August 24 and 25.

Many interesting and useful suggestions – ranging from global to specific issues – have landed. They cover:

  • Web 2 and health
  • climate change and health
  • health inequalities and the social determinants of health (two pitches)
  • deafness
  • rural health
  • the food chain
  • public health and law
  • sexuality and young people
  • watchdog for health/welfare claims
  • primary health care
  • overdiagnosis
  • sports injuries prevention
  • non-pharma interventions for people with dementia
  • women with disabilities who experience violence
  • rural medical careers guide
  • humanism and medicine
  • vasculitis.

For those interested in pursuing any of these concepts, there may be some inspiration in this Reporting on Health article about how Kickstarter, a platform for funding of creative projects, raised $US140,000 in a month to start Matter, a website for investigative reporting on science and technology.

The pitches for the New News session, as outlined below, were to explain:

1. the publication’s focus
2. why it is an area of need that might benefit from having an online focus
3. the publication’s main audience.

On related themes, this post about the future of news by software developer Stijn Debrouwere is worth reading, even if you have no particular interest in journalism – many of the issues he raises have broader currency. He concludes: “Most innovation in media and most of the revenue and most of the value will come not from the incumbents and not even from news startups, but from people who unwittingly stumble into producing media as the solution to another problem.”

Perhaps some of the pitches below will fall into that category: an online media-based solution to a health-related problem?

***

1. Health2.0 Blur
Malcolm Lewis, Public Health 2.0 innovator/catalyst

1. New technologies for communication, learning, research, coordination, epidemiology such as the full range of new media from webinars, through Youtube to Twitter, from tablets & smartphones, to NBN, and PCEHR are transforming what is possible in health. Concurrently the spread of Web20 and mobile technologies is changing the power relations between health professionals and the public we serve. The public has new expectations. New tech offers new models of service delivery in every area of health from education, to research through to service delivery and evaluation.

2. We need a new type of publication to help us cope with this revolution. It is all changing so fast and we need help in making sense. We need a new web20 multimedia publication to highlight what is good and bad and is difficult about this. We need to support learning and conversations to help us nut a way through all this tech-driven disruptive change.

All this tech is changing boundaries and categories and roles in health. Just as telephone companies and news companies were totally separate before convergence, similar changes will happen to our familiar categories in health like primary health care, population health, tertiary services. Our boundaries blur.

Journals can’t keep up with the change. Conference can’t keep up and twitter is too fast and fleeting. We need a new online web20 multimedia publication.

3. The groups we need to bring into a conversation: Managers, health innovators, tech types, Health Care Professionals of all types, early adopters, education researchers, policy, health public affairs, pharma, people in health sector who use social media in personal life and want guidance to use it in their professional life. Patients need to be in the conversation as well.

Its needs to be more than a web based publication, It needs to be a learning community. Its needs to be Multimedia: Webinars, podcasts, video casts, use guest bloggers, twitter chats, Linkedin discussion groups, Facebook  use aggregation software to bring all the threads to gether like http://grsshopper.downes.ca/

It will be some journalism, some community facilitation, some content curation and totally amazing.

***

2. Climate change and health
Fiona Armstrong, Climate and Health Alliance

1. The health implications of climate change

2. This is an area that is being overlooked in public policy development and suffers from a low level of understanding in the community about the implications for human health from climate change and the health benefits of emissions reductions. An online publication could help to draw together the constantly emerging evidence from this dynamic area of research and serve to help bridge the gap between academic knowledge and community literacy on this topic. Online would be the most appropriate forum because of the international nature of the topic – addressing a global issue so sharing information between countries while at the same time focusing on the relevant impacts for a local audience.

3. As above, and international audience but focusing on the health community in Australia to help build understanding of this issue for ALL health professionals, not just public health experts, and helping to build an understanding of the strategies for policy responses for government and decision-makers.

***

3. Health inequalities
Associate Professor Marilyn Wise, the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation, University of NSW

1. Inequity in health (and in other social outcomes) is an outcome of unfair, unjust social treatment.

Although it has been recognised, slowly, that this is the case, the search for ‘what needs to be done to overcome or prevent this’ has been focused on ‘ideas’ for ways to redistribute social goods, resources, rewards (and burdens) more fairly and justly.  It is important to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities (at least) to access these goods and services.

However, decision-making power is, itself, distributed unfairly and unjustly.  Exploring/creating avenues to increase the ‘presence’ of marginalised groups in social decision making is the area I would propose as a focus for the publication.

The arenas in which such decision-making occurs are broad – legislative spaces, policy spaces, practice/service delivery spaces – in the public, private, and civil society sectors.  A brief review of the ‘presence’ of marginalised groups in these (beyond being consultees) shows how limited the decision-making influence of the groups is.

2. There is evidence that being ‘present’ in society’s decision-making forums does (or can) lead to improvements in access to opportunities for previously excluded groups – e.g. women.

There are direct benefits to health arising from being recognised as respected, autonomous, equal participants in social decision-making and there are indirect benefits to health arising from more accurate understanding of problems, their causes, and solutions (and from more direct engagement in implementation) of groups who are not currently ‘present’ in decision-making.

There are multiple questions for debate and discussion that are not ‘technical questions’ but are, rather questions about the values that underpin social decision-making, and about the ways in which our social institutions (in all sectors) and their agents (us) contribute to unfair, unjust social treatment.

Some of the questions for discussion might be, for example:

‘which groups’ need to be ‘present’ in order to increase health development.  Melissa Williams has proposed four criteria to use to identify such groups – these are, doubtless, more.

What would constitute ‘being present’?  How would this be assessed?

Where would we seek greater ‘presence’?  Just in legislative spaces? Or in policy and service spaces?

What structures and processes would be needed to increase ‘the presence’ of marginalised groups.

3. My view is that this is an issue for all health policy makers, managers, and practitioners and to academics – examining the ways in which our own organizations and ways of working constitute or contribute to or perpetuate unfair, unjust social treatment.

But the questions and the solutions are of concern to a much wider variety of people who are engaged in efforts to make Australia a fair, just society in practice – not only in rhetoric.

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4. Health and social justice
Dr Rod Macqueen

1. I work in the area of drug and alcohol problems (D&A) in rural NSW, including work with a number of Aboriginal services. What keeps me here is the issue of equity and social justice, and in all three areas, that is D&A, rural health, and Aboriginal health, we seem to be going nowhere.

People like Michael Marmot and Richard Wilkinson talk at big meetings, and publish influential articles and books, and are justifiably lauded for their work amongst those in the know. But I hear little discussion about equity in discussion with patients or co workers. I do not think these people read Quarterly Essay, or even the one page “in depth” (sic) articles in the papers – but they are usually aware of the issues and the impact of inequity once it is raised. Maybe an online approach might be more appealing and recruit more people to the debate?

2. Given that income, social class, inequity of income distribution and access to some control in one’s life are significant determinants of health, and are all beyond the individuals immediate control, health workers should keep on hammering this issue. But not amongst themselves, rather garnering some popular support as well. A funky, appealing, blog style approach, which nevertheless raises these issues in a questioning rather than a preaching way, may do well. Maybe we have one? – if so I am not aware of it.

3. It must be the general public. Probably the more online savvy age range, but that is probably 3 to 80 today anyway! But specifically, those people who think about issues a little, who reflect upon their world, but do so, at the moment, unaware of the mass of critical thinking and the huge evidence base that already exists.

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5. Deafness
Kyle Miers, Community Relations Manager and Caitlin Syrett, Communications Coordinator, Deaf Children Australia

1. Deafness (and all levels of hearing impairment) as a precursor to poor mental health, and the greater social impacts of deafness and mental health on educational outcomes, workforce participation and social inclusion.

Background statistics:

It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Australians have a hearing loss

There are approximately 16,000 deaf or hard of hearing children in Australia

For every thousand children born, one is born with severe hearing loss

95% of deaf children are born to hearing families, who have had little to no experience with deafness in their lifetime

Around 80% of deaf children attend ‘mainstream’ schools, where they may be the only deaf student

A deaf person is twice as likely to experience a mental health problem than their hearing peers.

Deafness is generally one of the most misunderstood disabilities. It is often considered a health or medical ‘flaw’. However, deafness presents more far-reaching social consequences than just an inability to hear sound. It significantly impacts the lives of deaf people and their families in numerous ways about which the wider community is largely unaware.

Families are fraught with issues about their child’s future, and must make decisions about their hearing technologies, communication methods (hear/speak, use sign language or both), and education modes. They hold concerns for their child’s future: will their child be able to work, access a good education, survive and thrive in the wider world?

The health sector focuses on fixing the child’s deafness with hearing technologies, audiology and speech pathology, but greater exploration, awareness and access to information are needed regarding the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of deaf individuals, and their families, as well as the impact on the wider community.

Deafness presents a barrier to communication, which is crucial in the formative early years for an infant’s cognitive development and language acquisition. This later affects their preparedness for school, educational outcomes, self-identity, confidence, aspirations, employability, workforce participation and economic outcomes. Difficulties in these areas put deaf people at greater risk of experiencing mental health issues and social disengagement. Recent work in this field had revealed a gaping hole in the availability of adequate services to prevent and address the mental wellbeing needs of deaf people.

The spectrum of hearing loss manifests in many and varied social impacts. Current studies suggest that people with even low levels of hearing loss use ‘compensatory’ cognitive behaviours to fill in the gaps of their hearing, These include pre-empting conversation, hyper-alertness and disengagement in social or educational settings, all of which may heighten the risk of developing mental health issues.

An excellent document to refer to regarding mental health and deafness in Australia is Deafness and Mental Health: Guidelines for Working with People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (http://www.health.qld.gov.au/pahospital/mentalhealth/docs/damh_guidelines.pdf)

And recommendations made in the 2010 Healthy Deaf Minds Tour report (http://www.deafchildrenaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/HDMT%20FINAL%20REPORT%20LowRes.pdf)

2. Deafness has implications across many sectors, yet the current medical model which conceptualises deafness as a biological ‘flaw’ promotes gross misunderstanding of the wider, and preventable, personal development and social implications; as well as human rights issues concerning access to communication and language. The effects of acquired hearing loss in Indigenous communities (as a result of noise-overexposure or childhood illness) on behaviour, education and crime is also an area requiring further investigation and understanding.

At present, deafness is a fragmented sector. Educational outcomes for deaf children are an education sector issue. Employment outcomes for deaf people are an employment issue. The choice to give your child a Cochlear Implant, or not, remains a medical issue, despite the impact this has on the rest of the deaf person’s life. Deaf non-profits in each state provide services for their local deaf adult community. Individual researchers pursue their particular areas of interest (such as language, neurology, and education). Peer-review journals exist for specific professions, but there’s nothing as yet that investigates and disseminates a comprehensive body of knowledge around deafness and all associated public, policy and social impacts. Without it, deafness will continue to remain a fragmented and poorly understood medical cause of wider public and social impact.

Professionals, parents and the wider community can benefit from content that discusses and exposes the hidden non-medical issues of deafness. It would resource them to provide better support and services to holistically address the personal and social needs of deaf people, enabling them to lead full and active lives, and contribute positively to the general community.

The key focus should be on preventive factors that can maximise life outcomes, including the implications for the social and emotional wellbeing of deaf people.

3. A centralised, online and accessible publication of deafness, with the aim of creating better understanding of a holistic approach to deafness and its associated impacts on physical, mental and social wellbeing issues, would benefit the health sector, education, community services, policy makers, family services, deaf people, families of deaf people, employment services and related research fields such as linguistics and neurology.

Potential contributors could also include:

Audiology and speech therapists

General Practitioners

Ear, Nose and Throat specialists

Psychologists

Disability services

Educators (including linguistics)

Parents

Members of deaf/ hard of hearing community

Specialist service providers (employment, health, case management)

Please forward all correspondence to kyle.miers@deafchildren.org.au

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6. Rural health
Gordon Gregory, National Rural Health Alliance

1. The focus would be the set of issues that between them result in health status in rural and remote Australia being worse than in the capital cities. It includes the social determinants of health (such things as low incomes, lower levels of completed education, greater proportion of people with a disability, and poorer access to infrastructure); and deficiencies in the health system itself (poorer access to health services, shortages of health staff, higher costs of delivering health care, later diagnosis leading to worse outcomes and higher mortality).  The average life expectancy in rural/remote areas is around four years less than four the major cities.

2. Although online communications are not yet a panacea for rural challenges because the platforms for them are not yet as comprehensive, robust or affordable in rural and remote areas as they are in major cities (the so-called digital divide), it is likely that, over time, online communicatio