Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Community Organizing Meets Global Health Blogging

Towards building a social network around global health news.

At least a dozen global health bloggers have publicly said they will be posting on the broad theme of "prevention vs. treatment" this Thursday, January 29, 2009. (Feel free to join in!) This is part of an experiment that grew out of a Twitter conversation to see if we can coordinate posts in a kind of "global health blog carnival" to increase awareness of global health issues. I'll be posting about my experience in Malawi and reflecting on whether the prevention vs. treatment debate is really a false choice.

But there are some larger questions here that I would like to explore: Is a social network around global health news starting to emerge organically on the web? What can we do to nurture it? Do economic realities dictate that this will have to be a volunteer led endeavor, at least for a while?

Or, another way of putting that last question: Is news about global health subject to the same market failures that afflict products for global health (e.g. free-market forces alone will not lead to new tuberculosis medications and other drugs that affect mostly the poorest people in the world)?

Some preliminary thoughts on the first question: Is a social network around global health news starting to emerge organically on the web?

Although blogging has been around for a while, we haven't really had the critical mass of bloggers interested in global health issues until recently.

International news coverage has suffered terribly in the retrenchment affecting the journalism industry. There are efforts to do something about that. The Gates Foundation is funding more coverage of global health issues at National Public Radio, Public Radio International and on television's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The new kid on the block is Global Post, which I am happy to say, has a global health correspondent in South Africa. And let's not forget Global Voices Online, whose international health reporting is growing.

The British newspaper The Guardian is partnering with AMREF, an NGO dedicated to medical relief in Africa, to report development news from the Ugandan village of Katine. (See Laura Oliver's post on a UK journalism blog for news on the project's growing pains. Larry Hollon also has thoughts at Perspectives.)

I suspect we have only scratched the surface. In my view, a true social network for global health news would go far beyond encouraging comments, cross-linking, blog carnivals and re-tweeting. But those are the first steps.

Note to self and others: the news innovation barcamp for entrepreneurial journalists at the University of Missouri last week may give us some ideas for how to share ideas, organize efforts. They have created an online site for collaboration among groups of like-minded people (journalists and non-journalists) who want to explore new ideas for news coverage but have low or no budgets for experimentation.


Salima Pirani said...

hi there, i just came across your blog - can you please chance the spelling - the village is called Katine, not Kitane.
Communications Manager
AMREF Canada

Maryn McKenna said...

That RJI barcamp site that you reference is on Ning.com. Ning group sites are (supposedly) easy to set up - I hasten to add that I have never run one, but I do belong to some Ning communities. We could consider it, if enough of us are interested.

Separate q.: Did we ever decide on a hashtag for Thursday? Christine, you seem to be the hinge point for people communicating on this - would you consider posting to propose one? As of a few days ago, #ghnews and #ghealth were both available. Pick one?

Christine Gorman said...

Misspelling fixed. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Let's talk offline about whether there is enough critical mass for Ning group.
Let's go with #ghnews since it's shorter.
I'll post a reminder on twitter.