My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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“Sicko”, Barack, and Danny Pearl

The last two days have been a complete trip. I woke up yesterday expecting to drive to Hartford to prep for my speech when i realized that New York was two hours from Hartford (or so i thought because i forgot about traffic) so i decided to “swing by” New York to see the premier of Michael Moore’s new film “Sicko.” I had watched a bunch of it online but i really wanted to see it live with people and i’m *so* glad i did. I made it to Manhattan in time to catch the 7:45 showing. Little did i know, Michael Moore was in the audience seeing how people would react. The women behind me “uh huhed” and “oh yeahed” and “you go girled” the whole way through – i think they approved. The audience loved it. I loved it. “Sicko” is hands down Michael Moore’s best film to date and i strongly encourage everyone to get out there and see it next weekend for opening. For those who don’t know how the film industry works, opening weekend means the world. How many tickets are sold that weekend dictate how long the film can be in the theaters. So if you watched it online, just buy a ticket for next weekend to show solidarity and support. It’s critical that this film get seen far and wide in the US, or at least far enough for folks to make a stink.

Personally, this film is very important to me. As many of you know, i broke my neck when i was 16 in a freak accident. I didn’t have health insurance. It cost $88K. That debt still haunts me. I wasn’t able to get the right physical therapy because of money. My neck still causes me problems on a daily basis. I’m not eligible for independent health insurance and my fear of being uninsured makes me panic about a post-grad school future. I have often wondered who i would marry to get insured. There is no one to blame but when i had my accident, everyone told me to sue the school because of the medical costs. I couldn’t justify this in my own conscience. It kills me that every accident requires someone to blame or else you aren’t covered. I don’t want to live in that kind of a society.

Luckily, i think that there’s a health care theme going on in discourse these days. This morning, i had the great fortune of hearing Barack Obama speak at the United Church of Christ’s Synod in Hartford (where i had the honor of speaking about why youth are using social network sites). It was truly inspiring to see Barack speak in person and he got a standing ovation when he announced that he would sign a universal health care plan into existence in his first four years should he be elected. He really energized the audience and it made me smile to see so much optimism (without the pure politicking) in a candidate.

After yapping with folks all day, i realized i needed to zone out or i was going to completely lose it so i went to see A Mighty Heart. I can’t say the movie was brilliant, but it was good to see Angelina connect her politics to her films and the story of Danny Pearl is just heartwrenching.

Oh and while i’m being all daily life documentary here, apologies for the low blogging levels lately… i’ve been running around more chaotically than normal (even for me). I gave up this month and subletted my apartment. I will be traveling at near continuous levels between now and November 1. On the plus side, starting in November, i will be locking myself in my apartment (no conferences, no talks, no consulting) to write. The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to appear and i can’t tell you how excited i am to begin writing the dissertation/book. I suspect to be gone from public life between November and June but i also suspect that i will be blogging more (as being locked up in my apartment tends to encourage that). But i will give you more updates on that as things progress. I hope everyone is well!

Oh, and go see Sicko!!! Pretty please!

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14 comments to “Sicko”, Barack, and Danny Pearl

  • Healthcare has always been a dinnertime topic growing up because my mom has been closely involved with the massachusetts healthcare industry for longer than I’ve been alive. Thankfully from a moral but not economical standpoint, it has been work for the nonprofit healthcare sector (the only ones in MA-no for profits to be seen in any force at all, no united or anything icky; the providers and hospitals, of course, are still very very greedy) essentially working to provide good services for people getting insurance, and now working with one of the new connector-oriented companies assigned to pick up the new people getting insured through MA’s healthcare plan. But, all the same, it has always given me a very close up picture of some of the problems our country faces on this critical issue.

    Everyone in DC while I was there interning took it as a given that healthcare would be the big issue this coming election cycle, from the staffer to the senators. I just hope that it becomes an issue not just of talking points but of positive action…

    November -> nanowrimo! :P

    Good luck with all that travel and work, be sure to relax along the way! Don’t forget to have fun. And of course, travel safely.

  • I know next to nothing about U.S. health care policies, but what kind of freak accident was it that you couldn’t sue anyone, didn’t get proper rehab and aren’t eligible for health insurance?

    Take care of yourself, you need to be strong and relaxed (from time to time) to make the difference you strive to make!

  • mike

    Michael Moore Sicko. Couldnt have labelled him better myself.

  • Johanka – I broke my neck playing ultimate frisbee. I did run into a guy but it was an accident. I didn’t have the money for proper rehab. Because of pre-existing conditions, I’m not eligible for new insurance. Welcome to American health care.

  • Marsha

    danah,
    My 15 year old daughter and I particularly enjoyed your workshop at the UCC Synod referenced here. I was the “old” lady who commented about my use of social networking, mostly with my students and youth members of my church. In addition, my daughter has been completely willing to make me her “friend”/”buddy” (I helped her create her accounts). I didn’t know how fortunate I was to be connected to all of these exceptional young people where they are most comfortable.

  • Thank you for devoting some of your blog to this important issue of health care. Please allow me to comment against Mr. Moore’s work. I believe the market failures Sicko addresses are not due to a failed government but to an epidemic of unhealthy lifestyles that cannot be supported economically. Preventable illness comprises 80% of the burden of illness and 90% of all healthcare costs. Preventable illnesses account for eight of the nine leading categories of death. No medicine, surgery or treatment can reverse the damage caused by a lifetime of smoking, poor eating and lack of exercise. By simply increasing treatment that buys time, ignores the inevitable need to align patient’s economic incentives toward healthy living. This is the innovation needed in the economic system of health care, not just more health care.

  • Jake Lockley

    I want to thank you for finding whatever little time you have to blog for us. Reading your blog for me ranks up there with Henry Jenkins blog and watching BookTV on CSPAN. Gaining a glimpse into your journey and analyzing things through your eyes is always great food for thought and I find myself eagerly awaiting more.

    While my opinion of Michael Moore isn’t very high I do think the health care system has many problems, most of which will never be fixed and the problems are being highlighted by people like Moore and politicians who take the sensationalist approach to the symptoms and don’t address it as intellectuals with real problem solving skills.

    I’m not saying I have the answers, but I can say without a doubt time and time again when a system is set up that allows people to abuse it they will, and that happens everywhere, not just in health care.

    People are the problem, the system is just an expression of the discipline and capacity of the people. We can fix the problem, but not until everyone is accountable as individuals for what they put into the system as well as take from it. That is not in the best interest of politicians. They will struggle to maintain the status quo and their place in it.

    Thanks to technology we’re ripe for a revolution, and revolutions come from the people, not the status quo they replace. Revolutions favor the lowest common denominator, so be careful what you hope for. Free health care for all may mean you have to stand in line behind 20 million illegals or 200 million people who don’t have the brains to take care of themselves and hence have a greater need.

    My respect for freedom is as great as my fear of its abuse. The fears from both sides about Democracy and Socialism are equally justified. Utopia is just maintaining the perfect equilibrium between the two.

  • Frances Bell

    In the UK, we are still hanging on to a National Health Service (though with many flaws) and our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown says health will be a priority. Whilst I take the points about personal responsibility, it’s clear that deprivation is a strong indicator of health problems, so this is part of a bigger picture.
    Danah, you would have had free treatment as a UK citizen, even though it may not always have been to your convenience. The most advanced treatment is generally available only through the NHS.

  • brett johnson

    hi:

    quick question. Are you related to Neva Boyd?

  • I have to agree with Damon on the source of most costs: USA spends so much more then any other country per head (and you probably should double that as half of the country is not treated) and as people have much better treatment in Japan, Switzerland, etc. the lifestyle and tremendous vanity are to blaim for more then 100% of it. However, danah makes another point, which is that a significant share of the population is hardly treated, and those are those who need it the most: it’s about fairness. You need to resolve the first issue to have to money to stop the second scandal–but they are distinct.

    Regarding your own personal situation, France would still be happy to welcome you–however beware, Chiropraxy (which I assume is what you need the most) is still considered a voodoo science here. Maybe Canada would suit your conference schedule better.

  • Steve

    Michael Moore is from Flint, which isn’t that far from Lansing, where I live. I knew of him by reputation back when he was still running the Flint Voice (later the Michigan Voice). I always kind of thought he was an ass, but I really like his movies (except for the way he used the sinister-looking visuals of Saudis in Farenheit 9/11 – I thought that bordered on anti-Arab racism). So, I guess he’s my kind of ass. And I hope to see Sicko eventually.

    Marrying for health insurance is no joke. A close friend of mine whose children, along with their close friends, became my standard for “real” teenagers, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a “working poor” single mother, having taken a job after the advent of welfare “reform”.

    (And someday someone should look into the somewhat paradoxical notion that in the period between the rise of the two income family and the imposition of welfare work requirements, the single-parent welfare family may have had the strongest parent-child bond of any part of American society. Apart from the obvious – that they had the time to spend with their children – it is also the case that these were women by and large who could have aborted, but chose not to – often at great personal sacrifice. However, this overall observation as to the quality of the bond may differentiate depending on the presence and degree of substance abuse.)

    But, in any case, my friend who had been contentedly single chose to marry a long-time suitor who worked at GM and had Blue Cross. It was not a loveless relationship – I think Sue and Bob genuinely cared for one another – but I also think that were it not for her illness she would have chosen to remain single and have male friends. I endorsed her decision at the time, and still don’t see how she could have done otherwise. That decision bought her several more years of life – the opportunity to see her two youngest children grow up, the opportunity to see her grandchildren, and a “dream” vacation to Hawaii. The downside was that after the marraige Bob became somewhat possive and controlling (though not, as far as I know, physically abusive) and did not encourage her to remain in close contact with her friends. She was a warm person, once you got to know her, and valued her friendahips. She was a giving person who loved having people around to take care of (even though she might sometimes gripe about it). She was “second mom” to any number of her kids’ friends whose own parents were defective. Bob seemed to want all that caring and goodness exclusively for himself – which was a source of continuing tension. She passed away last fall.

    So, do what you must in this evil world to get the care you need, but please do not pay too high a price.

    Best wishes always,
    -Steve

  • Annie M

    Everyone should go see ‘Sicko’ but then they should go home, get on the internet, go to their library and RESEARCH the US healthcare system for the next three months, maybe even take a class on the US healthcare system at their local college, and then after all that is said and done, they can start to speak and talk about the healthcare system and what ‘Sicko’ is about.

    I’m a recent graduate of Penn State Univ’s Health Policy Administration program; which basically means I’ve been researching and studying the US healthcare system for the past FOUR years; along with the US healthcare system I have taken MULTIPLE classes on health systems in other countries and what about them works and what about them doesn’t

    I have also spent HOURS upon HOURS of class time arguing, talking and trying to understand where the US healthcare system should go. Is universal healthcare a good idea? Is privatized healthcare a good idea? the nights I have stayed up racking my brain about these two questions is going into the hundreds.

    Should we go Universal with our coverage? Like England and Canada (who are both ranked above us on the WHO’s list of countries with the best health systems)It could do a lot for the US (we are sitting at the 37th spot; just above Cuba) Heck, France’s healthcare is Universal and they are sitting at the top of the list! It would be awesome for the richest country in the world to at least be in the top twenty. Then again we could end up even lower. Let’s take a look at Poland; in all of the arguments for a universal system Poland is NEVER mentioned… why is that? Maybe its because they are sitting at position number 50… that’s right people, 13 slots below us sits a country with universal healthcare; so what we’re doing right now as bad as what we could be doing.

    Along with Universal healthcare; are you really going to trust a government that sends our troops half way across the world to fight a war that didn’t even need to be started in the first place with your healthcare decisions? Yeah we’ll have a new President in office in 2008… and I bet that person will be a HELL of a lot smarter than the one that’s in there now… but hey… we elected an idiot into the white house once (actually twice)I bet ya anything we can do it again.. and to be honest with ya; if W. was making decision about MY health.. I’d prefer privatized healthcare.
    As for the cost of our healthcare; yep 16% of the US GDP goes to healthcare every year… France clocks in around 10-12%… and England is coming in probably around 9% these days… we spend a ton of money on our healthcare. And where does it all go? Start counting how many drug comersals you see on TV on any given day. If you haven’t used a pen promoting some drug or piece of equipment you haven’t lived. In the US we have the most advanced technologies in the healthcare industries. If there is a cure for cancer I’ll put money on the fact that it will be found on US soil. it really is all about what money can buy and the CEO’s of the drug companies and the healthcare technology companies are sitting big and pretty on their nice fat salaries…

    If you want someone to attack about healthcare; attack them; attack the CEO’s of major for-profit hospitals. Attack the CEO’s of not-for-profit Hospitals too, its not like their living on $24,000 a year.

    Don’t attack the nurses and doctors that are just trying to give the best care they can. They know there is more wrong with the US healthcare system than they want to think about in a day.

    Go out there and educate yourself on what we can do to improve our healthsystem together… please do not go out and rattle off what Micheal Moore says (I mean if he REALLY REALLY cared about health maybe he would get off his ass and loose the weight; its kinda funny that an obese man is talking about the state of our nations healthcare; when he isn’t even invested in his own health; if he does care that much about it, how about losing 100 pounds so that we don’t have to pay for his triple bypass surgery in 10 years)

    I’m not saying that Sicko is a bad movie… heck I’m going to go see it; what I am saying is that before you start rattling off ‘facts’ that you got from the movie go out and educate yourself on what the healthcare in america really is… if you don’t want to educate yourself.. go watch the movie; but DON’T start acting like its the absolute truth about what healthcare is. And let people like myself; who have invested YEARS of study to the healthcare system worry about what is right, what is wrong and what we need to do to fix it…

    Thanks for your time,
    Annie M.
    State College, PA

  • chuck

    Thank you for your comments regarding “Sicko” and the state of health profiteering in the US.

    There is a better way and the journey begins with the first small steps.

    Insist on national policy that requires all health care providers and insurers in any context establish common communications protocols (so that all may be literate about medicine in the same ‘language’). A policy that requires a common communications protocol – does not dictate the method, simply requires one be established. As M. Manson said in Moore’s Columbine film – we don’t listen – how can we provide effective health care if the practitioners cannot communicate thus preventing effective listening?

    Second, insist on a national policy that requires all medical records be converted from the current paper standard to an electronic record – that the patient owns.

    Two benefits will evolve: effectiveness in disease prevention through incresed understanding (transparency) across all health care disciplines and a national cost reduction (through process improvement & fraud reduction) upwards of $200 billion annually.

    How – send a note right now to your elected representatives at the state and federal levels and demand that they act immediately to establish these policies (important – not the method {leave the “how to” principles to the practitioners and the patient}, just the policy). Insist everyone you know to do the same and keep on doing it.

    For those that are interested go to http://www.lean.org and learn what Value Stream Mapping is. Do it the next time you experience ‘health care.’

  • sakthi

    Now only I know about your neck, take care yourself. Its definitely nice film, I don’t know why some of the people make criticism on this. Its much needed movie to reposition the US health insurance.

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