Today we are introducing a new section in the blog called “Meet the Blogger”. In this section, invited Public Health bloggers will be contributing posts about their own research and/ or their experience on using social media in their work. I am very happy that the first invited guest post is written by Dr. Kishan Kariippanon , who surely some of you know through his successful blog Youth Health 2.0 . Thank you Kishan!
Kishan is a medical doctor with qualifications in pediatrics and public health. He is currently a doctoral candidate and uses social media, especially blogging to share and collaborate openly. He believes public health will succeed through health startups.
IJPH: Could you tell us the title of your work and what it is about?
Kishan: The title of my research is “The interplay of social media and mobile phones amongst Yolgnu (Aboriginal) youth and its impact on traditional social marketing in Yirrkala.”
My work is focused on Aboriginal Health and the methods that are applied in this work is structured to enhance community participation and highlight the importance of culturally appropriate strategies.
IJPH: How is a typical day on the field?
Kishan: The Yolngu community in Yirrkala are made up of clan leaders, traditional owners of Aboriginal land, artists and the wider community. Working with the community involves the researcher first acquiring some specific knowledge in the history, language, culture and health priorities of the community.
The most important role in my everyday interaction and collaboration with the community is to understand and to apply traditional knowledge systems before even attempting to consolidate my research.
As a new member in the community trying to consolidate himself in the community I had to begin learning Yolngu languages and the kinship systems so I can identify myself with the members of the community and show my respect and appreciation for their culture. I took on the role of assistant to the football coach with responsibilities to provide refreshments to the players during training and matches. I have also taken on a volunteer role with a not for profit organization aiming to eliminate scabies in the region.
My role as a researcher here is then the least important, and this is essential as my purpose is to be useful to the community and not only be there to conduct research. Once a strong relationship is built through trust and mutual respect, then it will be the right time to roll out my research plans, still always consulting with clan leaders and elders whilst they guide the research.
IJPH: What are some challenges and barriers you have to deal with?
Kishan: There are two types of challenges that I am facing and am about to face. First, mobile phone users are not consistent and the life of the mobile phone is quite unpredictable. Phones are lost or given away and therefore phone numbers of people constantly change. This is a challenge when considering mobile health intervention design and program planning. Giving out phones have been tried and has not been successful.
Financial resources from individuals are scarce for projects like texting health messages (SMS) to take off. Most sharing of media content is done through Bluetooth. Evaluation in this setting becomes cumbersome as privacy and confidentiality must be taken into account.
The other challenge is in finding accommodation on site. Many researchers have done work in this community and are on ‘fly in fly out’ basis. I think that this approach will not yield good relationships and subsequently good research data and results that are beneficial to the community. It takes time and opportunity to build relationship and Yolngu knowledge systems with direct impact for behavior change can only be harnessed at ‘opportune’ moments. Therefore living in the community and experiencing community life is essential.
IJPH: Have you thought about research dissemination and how you are going to implement it for your project?
Kishan: One of the reasons why research is abhorred in Yolngu communities is because of the lack of authentic community consultation, collaboration and most importantly sharing of results post research with an aim to improve public health programs.
Research is definitely not disseminated well. Researchers need to consider how people receive and convey information, their levels of literacy and whether print or multimedia format needs to be used in the dissemination strategy.
For my research, I have prepared a special section on my blog called Youth Health 2.0 (www.youthhealth20.com) where the public can access in plain language and less than 750 words, updates from my analysis and community/stakeholders consultations. I hope that I will receive comments and feedback from the community to improve on my understanding as well as enable public health programs to improve on their health communications strategy and content development in real time instead of waiting 3 years for my thesis to be published.
The challenge in this approach, from my examiners will be interesting but this is an equitable and respectful way for researchers in the future. I do not own the knowledge and therefore the analysis must be fed back in the correct space of time for it to be useful.
IJPH: What do you think about the use of social media in public health, especially when it comes to research dissemination?
Kishan: I started using social media in my work, because of its advantage in spreading information and engaging the public. Many Aboriginal communities and their youth are active users of digital technology. Especially when young people live in remote locations, social media becomes their source of knowledge and entertainment.
Through the use of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, I would be able to engage and deliver information about my research to the community in written and video format which could overcome barriers like low literacy. Disseminating research in an engaging video co created with research participants not only makes the information more valid but also empowers and gives importance to the role the community plays in the research process.
Through Twitter, I will be able to hold discussions with research colleagues from around the world who are interested in working with hard to reach populations in a resource poor setting.
IJPH: Tell us a few final words!
Kishan: I hope that the process of engagement and consultation with the Yolngu community can be enhanced with, state of the art processes in research dissemination, so that public health research will gain renewed acceptance from the community and enable future collaborations.