Tag Archives: health

Challenges for Health in a Networked Society

In February, I had the great fortune to visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of their “What’s Next Health” series. I gave a talk raising a series of critical questions for those working on health issues. The folks at RWJF have posted my talk, along with an infographic of some of the challenges I see coming down the pipeline.

They also asked me to write a brief blog post introducing some of my ideas, based on one of the questions that I asked in the lecture. I’ve reposted it here, but if this interests you, you should really go check out the talk over at RWJF’s page.


RWJF’s What’s Next Health: Who Do We Trust?

We live in a society that is more networked than our grandparents could ever have imagined. More people have information at their fingertips than ever before. It’s easy to see all of this potential and celebrate the awe-some power of the internet. But as we think about the intersection of technology and society, there are so many open questions and challenging conundrums without clear answers. One of the most pressing issues has to do with trust, particularly as people turn to the internet and social media as a source of health information. We are watching shifts in how people acquire information. But who do they trust? And is trust shifting?

Consider the recent American presidential election, which is snarkily referred to as “post-factual.” The presidential candidates spoke past one another, refusing to be pinned down. News agencies went into overdrive to fact-check each statement made by each candidate, but the process became so absurd that folks mostly just gave up trying to get clarity. Instead, they focused on more fleeting issues like whether or not they trusted the candidates.

In a world where information is flowing fast and furious, many experience aspects of this dynamic all the time. People turn to their friends for information because they do not trust what’s available online. I’ve interviewed teenagers who, thanks to conversations with their peers and abstinence-only education, genuinely believe that if they didn’t get pregnant the last time they had sex, they won’t get pregnant this time. There’s so much reproductive health information available online, but youth turn to their friends for advice because they trust those “facts” more.

The internet introduces the challenges of credibility but it also highlights the consequences of living in a world of information overload, where the issue isn’t whether or not the fact is out there and available, but how much effort a person must go through to manage making sense of so much information. Why should someone trust a source on the internet if they don’t have the tools to assess the content’s credibility? It’s often easier to turn to friends or ask acquaintances on Facebook for suggestions. People use the “lazy web” because friends are more likely to respond quickly and make sense than trying to sort out what’s available through Google.

As we look to the future, organizations that focus on the big issues — like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — need to think about what it means to create informed people in a digital era. How do we spread accurate information through networks? How do we get people to trust abstract entities that have no personal role in their lives?”

Questions around internet and trust are important: What people know and believe will drive what they do and this will shape their health.

The beauty of this moment, with so many open questions and challenges, is that we are in a position to help shape the future by delicately navigating these complex issues. Thus, we must be asking ourselves: How can we collectively account for different stakeholders and empower people to make the world a better place?

why I’m mostly offline

Y’know how when you’re really really tired and your eyes refuse to focus unless you force them to? And if you force them to, you’re inviting a searing headache? Much to my dismay, that’s been my reality since I returned from India. In a cruel twist of fate, my relaxing vacation relaxed my eyes a bit too much. And now they don’t want to play along.

I’m currently working with doctors to try to figure out why this is happening and what I can do to fix it. In the meantime, I’m trying to be a good patient. I’m currently spending very little time in front of the computer (although thank goodness for text-to-speech’s strange rendition of email), focused primarily on functional tasks and trying not to get distracted by Twitter or Quora or the collection of Betaworks projects that I desperately want to beta test. I’m learning to appreciate how my Kindle talks and, more importantly, LOVING authors who make real books-on-“tape” available (although “reading” Amy Chua’s controversial self-narrated book at double speed is rather intense).

The downside of all of this is that I need to stay put, both to see doctors and to attempt to maintain as consistent of a schedule as possible and focus on getting better. And, while Microsoft has the bestest health insurance ever, I’ve been advised that leaving the country would be a very stupid move right now. Boo to not being invincible.

Much to my chagrin, this means that I had to write Natasha at Webstock and tell her that I wouldn’t be able to join her this year. I can’t tell you how much this kills me. Webstock is this awesome conference in New Zealand organized by really smart design-tech-minded Kiwis, many of whom I met when I was in New Zealand a few years ago. I’ve been dying to go for years and I was really really really looking forward to attending this year. And now I can’t. Sad panda. So you should go for me. Cuz Natasha (and Webstock) are le awesome. Oh, and if you go, you should try to convince Tom Coates to do the talk on ballerinas that he originally proposed. He had even promised a performance!

Anyhow, I am not sure how long I’ll be slower than normal but I’m trying to take it easy and focus on my health. I’d much rather pretend to be a brain-on-a-stick but every once in a while, I’m forced to attend to my body. I’m not so good at being (a) patient but I’m trying. Please forgive me for being out of touch and not nearly as interactive as I pride myself on being. Hopefully I’ll be back with regularly scheduled entertainment in the near future.


health update

First, thanks to all of you who’ve written nice things asking me about my health. Since I bitched here, I feel compelled to send an update too. The good news is that it’s relatively simple and I’m going to be fine. The bad news is that it’s going to take a little bit.

For those who don’t know the backstory, I fractured C2/C3 when I was 16 playing ultimate frisbee. I’ve had various problems over the years as a result, but it’s been a while so I was rather shocked to see old symptoms reappear. After finding a doctor who didn’t think I was crazy, we set about to test things and figure out what might be causing it. Blood work, CT scans, physical evaluation, etc. Everything with my blood work and CT scans came back clear. There are still old scars on my neck, but that’s nothing to worry about. Nothing new. But, here’s the funny part – my alignment has gone to shit in all sorts of funny ways.

My body’s alignment issues are funny because they’re the result of trying to exercise. ::groan:: So, I knew that the various injuries that I’ve acquired over the last few years in an attempt to get into shape – golfer’s elbow, strained shoulder, knee issues – were most likely caused by my attempts to compensate for my neck and wrists. Well, annoyingly, it seems as though my body has decided to additionally compensate for those injuries, further setting my body off kilter. The result? Dreadful alignment, pinched nerves, trapezius spasms, etc.

Doctor’s guess is that this, combined with dissertation stress and the allergies and cough I managed to develop in Beijing, set my body into especially high freak out mode. It was a matter of time and, well, time hit this summer. As in the past, the problems with my vision are stemming from trapezius spasms. Only this time it’s not due to too much exercise, but to improper exercise. Even working with a personal trainer wasn’t the best of ideas because my injuries are too complex for that to work out well so that probably made things worse. But it’s all fixable.

The good news is that no one is suggesting surgery or medicine. Instead, physical therapy. Directed, targeted, measured exercise with constant assessment. Get the body back into alignment without causing new injuries. Do exercises that don’t let me compensate in stupid ways. Very precise and careful development of muscles. No additional exercising “for fun.” The doc guesses it’ll be a few months until I feel right again, but that if I work with a therapist to put my body back into shape, I should feel ten bazillion times better shortly. If not, we reassess.

Personally, I’m relieved. This all makes sense and the “solution” is something that I can live with. Or at least try without reservations. The only downside is that this stupid sneezing is probably not going to go away so long as I live in environments with pollutants. Hrmfpt.

medical update

First, thanks y’all for your advice and support. Today, I visited a different doctor and it was much much better. She was willing to parse out the different symptoms and offer hypotheses and ways to test these possibilities. She ordered full blood work and, with the advice of a spine/neuro brother team, a CAT scan. Plus, since we know the neck thing is an ongoing issue, she’s ordered PT to help me further stabilize my neck without creating new injuries. This is purrrfect since personal trainers, swimming, yoga, and pilates have all been abysmal failures.

There are still lots of question marks, but I’m much happier with how we’re proceeding. I feel like I’m being taken seriously and that she’s treating this like a puzzle to be solved systematically. And she’s not focusing on treating the symptoms but getting at what’s underneath them. w000t!

Anyhow, thanks for all of the love and support and hopefully I’ll know more soon.