Why Technology is No Longer Optional in Public Health

By Andre Blackman
09:14 AM

So I just got back from a very informative & interactive event where I learned about the application of  mobile technologies in creating social change. It’s here at this meeting of the socially-conscious minds and the focus of impact creating technology, that I began thinking about the real ways in which cutting edge tools are being used in the public health world.

Let’s face it, we’re living in the year 2009 and whether you are a young kid or much older, technology has been integrated into our lives - both for work and play. Several industries and disciplines have been traditionally linked with technology (e.g. science, engineering) however in recent years with the advent of  the Internet and social media, fields such as PR/marketing and education have latched onto emerging technologies and have been making quite a bit of use of them - making things better.

How are they making things better you ask? Well, they are doing a couple things:

 

  • Communicating with their target audiences
  • Informing professionals in their field
  • Developing new tools for their industry
  • Being open to the changing times and adapting

Among those in the list, I highlighted the last one for a reason - especially in the health space. Of course there is going to be a learning curve for these technologies, a diffusion of innovation. Brochures, fliers and booklets are still great but they are not the only end communication tool anymore (and their effectiveness is waning). In these recent years where emerging technologies have been more and more useful, we’ve seen our share of public health disasters and problems that have been begging for a solution. One event that has been forever inked on the minds of many Americans is the crisis of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. A tragedy of epic proportions that quickly turned into a public health nightmare on a number of levels. The question here is, of all the technology that we had then and have now, could things have turned out better? Well when Hurricane Gustav came onto the scene, the online world was ready to make use - Andy Carvin of PBS made sure that happened with his Hurricane Information Center.

Mobile Health in Kenya

It is an absolute must to make sure that public health professionals are privy to what’s going on here. I sincerely do not want this field to be at the tail end of the Digital Revolution with so much at stake and so much potential. From disaster response to online prevention campaigns using social media to gathering global support to end poverty - new technologies are here and there are limitless possibilities…and solutions. And don’t think that since you aren’t a maverick at using some sort of software that you can be counted out. The beauty of this new age of digital empowerment lies not in the technology or the tools, but in the people who are rallied around using them for great purposes.

THAT is why technology is no longer just an option for this field - there are people who want to see it used for impact and the people who it WILL impact are looking to us to see how we do it.

 

This blog originally appeared at The Health Care Blog.

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