Health literacy connections
As 2009 swiftly recedes into the past, my biggest accomplishment was my resolve to act on an issue that posed a dilemma for me. I was keenly interested in social media but was hesitant about managing my online identity. Was I participating on my own behalf or did I represent my [government] employer? Through inspiration by the likes of Dean Giustini, Mary-Doug Wright and George Siemens, finally, in 2009, I dove headlong into social media tools. My decision has already paid handsome dividends.
I started tweeting at the BCLA conference and blogging after the CHLA 2009 conference. I live-tweeted and blogged about events such as Informatics for Consumer Health Summit, the 7th Global Conference on Health Promotion and the recent FDA hearing on social media.
A powerful characteristic of the social media platform is that it transcends traditional professional boundaries, connecting people that would ordinarily not have opportunities to work together – offering great potential to harness incredible synergy. Only in this phenomenal forum would I be able to link up with:
- talented public servants like @nickcharney;
- internet researchers like @susannahfox;
- patient advocates like @ePatientDave;
- forward thinking physicians like @chukwumaonyeije & @macobgyn;
- informediaries like @cindythroop;
- innovative librarians like @pfanderson & @eagledawg;
- e-learning gurus like @gsiemens and @sarahstewart;
- eminent health bloggers like @healthblawg;
- health innovation strategists like @pjmachado…to name but a few
Needless to say, the most valuable conversations are those taking place across discipline boundaries and this is particularly true for the field of patient communication and empowerment. It is truly fascinating to see the rich insights that emerge when people from disparate fields are brought together by the common denominator of passion and technology. What is utterly interesting is that in this case, technology is both the platform of interaction and the subject of conversation. Through participating in #hcsm chats, I have connected with remarkable people whose common goal is to seek ways to use technology to engage patients and enhance health care.
Within a short time, via social media, I have made valuable contacts in the areas of government, social media, e-health and health communication/literacy, notably:
- Dr. Christine Kisia, one of my blog readers, a health promotion officer with the WHO office in Nairobi, expressed an interest in using the content I had posted on health literacy for a training session she was planning. It was very exciting to learn that health literacy training is emerging as an important priority globally and this was all the more special because Nairobi is home for me.
- Farrah Schwartz, another blog reader recommended me as a speaker for a health literacy conference organized by Institute of Health Care Advancement in California in May 2010. I was most flattered and humbled to learn that Farrah follows me on Twitter and reads my blog and on this basis, proposed me as a speaker on social media and health literacy. I accepted this challenge and learned that I was stepping into the sizeable shoes of Jenny Anderson (Communications Director, AIDS.GOV), the original speaker who could no longer make it. I have connected with Jenny and I am thoroughly impressed by what AIDS.GOV has accomplished using social media and I will be drawing generously on their examples in my presentation. This is an unprecedented learning opportunity in my efforts to pursue social media strategies in spite of the obstacles inherent in government as I note here and here.
Off-line my health literacy efforts included:
- Promotion of health literacy month through various activities. The highlight was a highly successful health literacy event for Ministry of Health Services.
- Planning and delivery of 23 medication safety workshops to educate parents about Health Canada’s directive on Cough and Cold medication for children. Partnering with children’s librarians was crucial in delivering this message during story times – absolutely delightful!