Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blogs + work

Finally my computer life and my real life collide.  Yesterday I went to a talk in the public health department about health-related blogs.  The presenter had a pretty broad definition that covered everything from informational to advocacy to people living with an illness to medical students trying to survive to the "healthy lifestyle" blogs that many of us read.  The talk itself was not that interesting.  It was mainly descriptive (ie X% of our sample of bloggers were women, X% had a site meter, X% had advertising, etc), but the presenter raised some interesting questions about the potential for health related blogs.

Some suggestions were:

1. When a patient is diagnosed with a chronic disease that will affect his or her lifestyle (especially one that can still have a stigma attached to it like HIV/AIDS), the physician can provide a list of (vetted) blogs by people who are also dealing with this disease.

2. For some diseases- say autism spectrum- people who are affected with disease (in this case, usually caregivers) will form "blogging communities" and share experiences and information.  How does that affect the way the individuals obtain care and interact with the medical community?  How do people who act in a more advocacy role affect these relationships?  What about people with an ax to grind?  How do you measure the impact one blog has on others?

3. How does sponsorship (which he defines as working for an organization like WebMD or a newspaper) or advertising affect what appears on the site?  Does advertising follow content or does advertising direct it?

4. The presenter didn't bring this up, but, as older people are more comfortable navigating and getting information from the Internet, what about scam blogs?  How can we teach people to discriminate between what's real and what's the same old snake oil in digital form?

Obviously I'm not a heath care provider, but I am interested in the impact of disease on quality of life, and I think this is an interesting area for potential study.  There are HUGE methodological problems to overcome.  It would be pretty hard to form hypotheses for the above statements and even harder to test them.  But all the same, I think/hope we'll see more about this in the future.

But back to 100% real life:

Yesterday was a trip to the gym for some strength training to get in one more recovery day after the race.  I feel like I'm back in action and ready to run again this morning.  The plan is 6mi with 5x hill repeats.

Last night we had an unintentional 3 course meal.  Spinach salad followed by

roasted sweet potatoes

and salmon coated with brown sugar and chili powder.

Time to head out the door.  The hills are waiting!