Knowledge is power

I’ll never tire of watching Schoolhouse Rock!

As a kid in the 1970s, I looked forward to each episode as much, if not more so, than the Saturday morning cartoons that surrounded them… with my parents taking in a few in between the chores that I would soon partake in as well. With a budding interest in math and science, these short three-minute videos were effective enough to this author that not only do I remember the topics decades later, but can readily recite them to unfortunate ears on chosen long distance bike rides.

How does this relate to health care? Recently, there has been some excellent discourse on how to heighten the diffusion of health services research into public policy. This author strongly supports the concepts of these postings, but believes an additional approach would be necessary to ultimately fulfill the constructs of bolstering public policy – that of promoting health literacy and health services research to the public in such a manner which would transcend and span generations.

This is where the Schoolhouse Rock! concept would come into play. The method of employing cartoons or videos to inform on health care concepts is not a novel one. In order to nudge public health knowledge and healthy behaviors, Schoolhouse Rock!-esque creations could encapsulate general health literacy notions and health services research outcomes in an amusing, self-promoting and efficacious format which could be easily digestible to children and adults alike. Perhaps even a follow-up album of such health care related topics could be produced with additional artists of the day.

The approach to encouraging healthy behaviors and fostering health services research need not be limited to animation shorts. Recently at the University of Louisville, an all-day symposium was hosted on “Crossing the Divide: On the Adventure of Getting Science Across to the Public”. One of the esteemed speakers was Paul Zaloom, the host of Beakman’s World. Did this show empower both the host and the viewing public in cultivating an interest in science? Well, I will let his quotes answer that principal question.

Equipping the public in this manner could create a cultural and national momentum of health that would advance its own cause… and remember, “It’s great to learn, ‘cause knowledge is power”.

Community empowerment

Last week, there was post on this website discussing how to create a community contagion.

The point of the contagion post was to think through ways the community can begin to work together and spread their message. While this remains thechallenge, let’s take this a step further. Let’s begin to consider the role of engaging the community and community empowerment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

“Community empowerment refers to the process of enabling communities to increase control over their lives. “Communities” are groups of people that may or may not be spatially connected, but who share common interests, concerns or identities. These communities could be local, national or international, with specific or broad interests. ‘Empowerment’ refers to the process by which people gain control over the factors and decisions that shape their lives. It is the process by which they increase their assets and attributes and build capacities to gain access, partners, networks and/or a voice, in order to gain control.”

How often is the community empowered in healthcare? How often is the community voice heard?

While there are ample studies on community empowerment (e.g. May, 1995, Eng, 1992, Rose, 2002), how often do we hear of the community stepping up to do demand more from healthcare?

Could it be that the community, as the WHO defines it, does not have a common “interest, concern or identity” as it relates to healthcare? Surely there are some communities that have made healthcare their mission to change. It is hard to imagine that after hearing stories of healthcare failing communities that more is not done. Just pick a story. Any story.

Is it that “we” have failed to actively engage the community in changing healthcare?

Rather than describe here examples of community empowerment for healthcare, let me pose the question – what have you seen? What are examples from your community where the community, feeling empowered, have demanded change in healthcare?