Category: Uncategorized

Calling all addicts: targets abusers and advertisers

A recent piece on America Public Media’s radio program Marketplace perked Upstream’s interest about a new website targeting a population of more than 40 million Americans – those battling an addiction. (subtitle: “addiction and recovery, straight up”) is a web magazine covering a variety topics from sober sex to Hollywood’s best addict performances. Why start a website dedicated to a subject so often swept under the rug or associated only with misguided celebrities?

Founder Maer Roshan, a journalist, says the site developed out of personal experience after he realized he was drinking too much. In a time where many media outlets struggle to survive, has not had problems finding advertisers to support its content (which includes stories about how to find good AA meetings, how to tell if you’re addicted to the internet, and one about alcoholic monkeys to boot). As Roshan told Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace,

“People have this kind of idea of recovering people or people with substance abuse problems as lying in boxes in New York street corners. And the fact is that in many ways people who are in recovery are healthier, have more disposal income because they’re not spending it on substances, they’re trying to recapture lost years of their lives. So there’s a whole group of advertisers that I think are perfect for this demographic.”

Given the large number of people who deal with addictions and substance abuse today, the “Just Say No” campaigns of the past clearly were not effective. How will websites, such as the, help fill a void left by a lack of targeted and effective public health campaigns?

Work by Dr. Nori Comello shows that anti-drug messages directed at one’s “active self,” or the representation that is most salient to a person, is better able to persuade people to avoid drug use than other messages.

Given that the people who regularly visit very well may have an active self view of themselves as a current or former drug user, will this content, which has the added credibility of being founded by someone who has experienced substance abuse, be more effective in aiding recovery than traditional anti-drug messages?

What can health communicators learn from Roshan’s success targeting this population? How does this site frame the problems and the solutions to addiction and drug abuse, and does that framing help or hurt recovery? How can commercial ventures such as this impact and interact with the messages that professional health communicators try to send about substance abuse and addiction?

Personalized, web-based My Colon Cancer Coach features UNC GI expert

My Colon Cancer Coach is a new, interactive patient education website presented by partners Fight Colon Cancer and Genomic Health, and featuring Dr. Richard M. Goldberg, Distinguished Professor of Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and Associate Director for Clinical Research at the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Throughout the site, UNC’s Dr. Goldberg, who has been involved with Fight Colon Cancer as a volunteer and advisor for many years, serves as a video guide.  Dr. Goldberg told us by email,

“Their advocacy work on behalf of colon cancer patients is important because of the help they provide to individuals and the role they play in making our elected officials aware of the needs of those people with the disease. My Colon Cancer Coach is a way to help patients who are newly diagnosed understand the disease and their options to manage it. As an educator and a specialist in managing colon cancer I wanted to support this effort.”

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Can apps aid in a crisis?

With the recent devastation in Japan following the earthquakes and tsunami, there is no question that medical care and information is necessary for many individuals. And some people seem to be turning to mobile phone applications for medical information.

The medical app “Medical Encyclopedia for Home Use” hit the top of the most-downloaded list for the Japan iTunes store this past week, according to an article in Better Health. The app provides basic advice related to first aid and has been made available free of charge in Japan following the recent disaster.

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Hospitals use social media

social media logosSocial networking tools are becoming increasingly popular resources for hospitals, both in the United States and abroad.

Edward Bennett, director of web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical System, has compiled a list of U.S. hospitals that use social networking tools. These tools include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Four Square, and blogs. His list includes 906 hospitals total that collectively utilize 3,087 social networking sites. Bennett asserts that hospitals can use social media in a variety of ways such as for customer service, community outreach, patient education, public relations, and crisis communications.

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Journalists, readers, and development workers partner to save lives

boys playing in UgandaThe news media have consistently tackled international development and global health issues – disease or malnutrition, for example – getting attention and providing viewers with opportunities to take action.

But recently a few news organizations have taken a more in-depth approach to these issues by partnering with donor agencies to show the big and small picture of international aid, tracking development from the dollar received to the remote village where it is spent.

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Thoughtless, thoughtful or both: My OB Said What?!?!

Photo credit to My OB Said What?!? Blog

One of my friends from high school is expecting her first baby – any day.  And, apparently, she’s got some interesting stories to tell about her visits with her to-remain-unnamed obstetrician in Connecticut.

Today, she posted this link on Facebook:

I curiously clicked the link.  At first, I figured the site would be akin to texts from last night or the FAIL blog – purely for enjoyment or giggles, not for any more tangible benefit.

Turns out I could be wrong.  Consider these points:

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Research literacy: What is it?

There are a number of types of research. (Photo by Kaibara87, from Flickr.)

Last week I learned a new term: research literacy. We have all heard of literacy, which involves reading and writing. Then there is media literacy, which is the idea that people should be able to analyze, evaluate, create and participate with media messages. There is also health literacy, which relates to being able to understand health information and use that information to make decisions about health. But research literacy was a term that was new to me. Research literacy is really what one would expect: it’s the idea of being literate about research and having an understanding of what research really means.

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Snazzy technology can come with high costs

money bags

How much should we pay for uneccessary procedures, or ones that aren't as effective as previous methods? Ask your policy makers and insurance companies for the answers.

While e-health and telemedicine have the promise to help make our healthcare system more effective and effeceint, more technology is not always the best answer. A recent article on highlights the importance of justifying using shiny new tech toys when cheaper means will do.

The article highlights a speech given by David Meltzer, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Meltzer also has a PhD in economics, which might be why views skyrocketing healthcare costs from a different lens.

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