How Being a Public Health Student Has Made Me Forget What’s Actually Going On in the Real World

We’ve been talking about health communication, social mobilization and knowledge for the last ten weeks and in the last few weeks, we have really stressed that knowing your “topic” or issue is not enough. To get noticed, to be effective, to make an impact – all of these things actually depend on not getting sucked into your own little world of “my health issue is the most important” (even if you truly believe it is!). You have to be aware of the world around you, the context. What are people talking about, concerned about, scared, excited, nervous, or frustrated about? All of these things impact a) where your health “issue” fits in to the grand scheme of life, b) how you will go about bringing attention to it or making change in some way, and c) what are other issues, structures, beliefs, attitudes and systems that are affecting your health issue or population. In fancy schmancy terms or health jargon, the social ecological context. As I write this, I realize that all of this applies to the idea of Health in All Policies.

Tonight, however, I realized that I have been so absorbed into my own world of school, health and life, that I have not really been paying attention to what is going on in the rest of world (or even just Vancouver)! How ironic is that?

So, I decided to take a peak at a couple of different sources, from the Huffington Post to CBC to the Globe and Mail to get a feel for what is going on in the world of health for the general public. Here are just a few snapshots of what our world is talking about over the last 24 hours (March 18-19, 2013).

CBC News Health Headlines

CBC News Health Headlines

CTV News Health

CTV News Health

Huffington Post Health News

Huffington Post Health News

CBC Most viewed March 19

CBC Most viewed March 19

Huffington Post Canada Health News

Huffington Post Canada Health News

Global TV Top Health Headlines

Global TV Top Health Headlines

Food and diet, sugar and soft drinks in particular, are in the news as is New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s cigarette plan, concussions, mental health and psychology (lots of articles on happiness, meditation, and stress, as well as schizophrenia, depression and Alzheimer’s), the scope “map” of the colon, surgical wait times, and the antibiotics crisis.

As you can see, it’s difficult to see what is trending! There appears to be a little bit of everything. The interesting thing about a lot of these topics, and something that I had never thought of too much before this class, is just how much health communication and policy are intertwined. These forms of communication, the way the general public accesses health information and the way it is presented to them (including who is deciding what is allowed in the media) has a massive impact on policy. This is especially apparent now more than ever with blogs, live news feeds, Twitter, and the input the public is able to have via social media. That being said, I am still a bit puzzled about when and how an issue gets to be relevant and how to keep it relevant enough for both behavioural and policy change to occur? How much control do we actually have over making something go “viral”? I guess, at the end of the day people want to read and hear about what is affecting them (personally, environmentally, economically, etc) so the best we can do is make it (our issue) relevant, personal, and provide some sort of do-able option, answer or change. Oh my goodness, was that me just putting theories of change, health communication and policy all together in an easy and accessible way?

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