Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adding social media to the medicine cabinet

People fighting chronic illnesses are less likely than others to have Internet access (62% vs. 81%), but once online they are more likely to blog or participate in online discussions about health problems, according to a report released March 24 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

"Once online, having a chronic disease increases the probability that someone will take advantage of social media to share what they know and learn from their peers," the study found.

Still, people living with chronic disease remain strongly connected to offline sources of medical assistance and advice:
  • 93% of adults living with chronic disease ask a health professional for information or assistance in dealing with health or medical issues.
  • 60% ask a friend or family member.
  • 56% use books or other printed reference material.
  • 44% use the internet.
  • 38% contact their insurance provider.
  • 6% use another source not mentioned in the list.
Looking at the population as a whole, 51% of American adults living with chronic disease have looked online for any of the health topics included in the survey, such as information about a specific disease, a certain medical procedure, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, or health insurance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

History for modern times

Congratulations to The Wichita Eagle and writer Roy Wenzl for the latest acclaim for his series on Father Emil Kapaun, a Korean War hero from Kansas who could become just the third American-born Roman Catholic saint (left).

"The Miracle of Father Kapaun" has won a 2010 National Headliner Award for writing and reporting. The series, published in The Eagle in December 2009, has a considerable online presence — I found the historical photos and recording of Kapaun's voice especially moving. Add the first-rate video story produced by Eagle photojournalist Travis Heying — which was picked up and aired by the local PBS affiliate — and you have a great example of how newspapers are competing in today's tech-savvy media market.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quote of the day

"There's a saying that we've now changed to read: 'Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill.' "
— Warren Blumenfeld, Iowa State
lead author of new study into cyberbullying

Stop, focus and read

Long before it was called "multitasking," researchers have been looking at just how well people can do two things at once. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education gives a fascinating — and for many folks, counterintuitive — update. More than 100 years ago, the Industrial Age saw young factory workers rolling cigars while listening to books, newspapers and political or religious tracts being read aloud; the Tech Age finds today's college student sending text-messages in class while listening to the lecture, watching a PowerPoint with imbedded videos, taking notes and googling facts in anticipation of the professor's questions.

The multimedia experience, conventional wisdom tells us, enhances learning as it "lights up" more parts of the brain, but now it appears that people may be merely buzzed by over stimulation.

"Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities," Clifford I. Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, told The Chronicle. "But there's evidence that those people are actually worse at multitasking than most people."

Nass and colleagues published a study in 2009 revealing that people who described themselves as multitaskers performed much worse on tests of cognition and memory that involved distraction than their counterparts who said they preferred to focus on single tasks. And a newer, as-yet-unpublished study by Nass, et al., shows that people who give a lot of time over to media screens fare worse on analytic questions, too.

"One of the deepest questions in this field," Nass says, "is whether media multitasking is driven by a desire for new information or by an avoidance of existing information. Are people in these settings multitasking because the other media are alluring — that is, they're really dying to play Freecell or read Facebook or shop on eBay — or is it just an aversion to the task at hand?"

So glad you dropped by to read this post — hope it didn't distract you for too long from your other tasks!