Understanding US Health Care Reform

Illustrating Health Reform: How Health Insurance Coverage Will Work: http://healthreform.kff.org/the-animation.aspx.In my recent travels to the US, I couldn't understand American attitudes towards the proposed health care reform. Perhaps with all the hype and political wrangling, it is difficult to understand what is being proposed and its potential impact. This 10-minute animated movie, written and produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation, is an excellent, balanced summary of what is being proposed and why.

Postsecret.com. Confessional 2.0!

Last week, I was fortunate to attend a presentation  given at Western University, London, Ontario by Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret.com.  He spoke to a capacity crowd of over 2000 students (mostly) and yet the presentation seemed very personal, casual and confiding. The audience was riveted – alternately moved to thoughtfulness, laughter, disbelief, and, occasionally, to tears.  The success of PostSecret.com is fascinating.  It speaks of the fantastic possibilities that the right blend of technology, human creativity, careful management (and empathy, in this case) can offer. Frank started PostSecret.com as a local community art project seven years ago, handing out postcards to strangers in Washington DC and telling people to mail them back to him at his home anonymously, with a secret they had never shared with anyone else before.  Of the 3,000 postcards he gave out, he received about 75 back, many with drawings, photos or other art, along with a shared secret. He then scanned and posted a selection of the postcards on his blog. Much to his surprise, he then started getting postcards from other cities in America, and then from around the world.  So far he has received over 400,000 postcards, and still gets about 1,000 new secrets a week. There are travelling art shows of parts of the postcard collection, the blog gets around 1 million hits every week and 5 books of secrets have been published so far.  Frank has a busy speaking schedule at college campuses and he has raised over $1 million to support mental health. Frank reads every postcard he gets. He speaks with respect for the sentiment expressed in each postcard, and with enjoyment of the art that expresses it.

I only discovered Postsecret.com last week and, hearing of its success, I recalled the quip about Wikipedia: it only works in practice, not in theory!  Now I know more, it is not surprising Postsecret.com is so popular.  Each postcard voices the need to share something, and this avenue provides a safe outlet. Souls are laid bare, yet no one is condemned or judged. No individual is identified, yet all of us can identify with some of the regrets, yearnings, resentments, fears or sly triumphs recorded in the cards. Many cards affirm a therapeutic benefit in being able to share their secret. This seems to be what Confessional 2.0 looks like!  Collectively, the cards must contain a goldmine of research material about humanity!

Two practical and useful social media guides for research and policy engagement

Social media has a significant impact on how individuals communicate, interact and collaborate and should be an important and necessary component of any researcher’s toolbox. However, there is much to be discovered, explored and understood regarding its capabilities, utilities and practical uses as a tool and mechanism in conducting research. This blog points to two guides: one discusses a tools and how they can be used in research, and the other presents a practical guide to linking research, advocacy and policy.

NIH Commissioned Study Results on Race, Ethinicity and NIH Research Awards.

A new NIH commissioned study to investigate anecdotal evidence that black biomedical researchers face a a negative bias in grant funding success rates found that is true. The NIH is taking the insights provided by this report seriously and efforts are underway to improve training, mentoring and grant application assistance to minorities.