@WePublicHealth: An experiment in citizen journalism meets public health
@WePublicHealth tests the use of a rotated curated Twitter account as a new model for citizen journalism with a public health focus.
Every week, a different person – including community members and public health professionals – is asked to tweet-report and investigate public health matters.
Their focus might be local – for example, documenting the cost of fresh foods in remote communities via tweet-photos – national or global (for example, reporting from international conferences and events).
They might use the account to share a photographic or film-based investigation, or to share links to related resources and research, for example. Or they might convene Twitter chats or interviews around particular topics, events or hashtags.
One of the goals is to encourage creative use of Twitter for public interest discussions and investigations.
Information for @WePublicHealth applicants and tweeters
1. The @WePublicHealth project aims to encourage public health investigations and reporting of events and issues that are likely to be of interest or use to Croakey readers. We ask that you consider how you can use the week to provide a service to the account’s followers.
2. If you are interested in a stint on @WePublicHealth, please get in touch with a note about what you’d like to cover. Send a short bio and the topic or event that you would like to cover. The account is not available to those working for Coca-Cola et al.
3. The @WePublicHealth tweets are displayed on the Croakey home page. Please be aware of this, and maintain a respectful, civil tone in your tweets and discussions. Do not tweet anything you would not want to see on Croakey’s home page.
4. This account is not to be used for personal attacks. As the guests have control over the account, they are legally responsible for their tweets. Croakey does not accept responsibility if guest tweeters publish defamatory comments.
Q: What’s your background and what does it have to do with public health?
I divide my work week between freelance environmental and science communication, writing and consulting, and working as the director of engagement at the Melbourne-based science communication agency Science in Public.
With my freelance hat on, I’ve written reports on the health benefits of contact with nature for Planet Ark, written features for several magazines and newspapers, and provided climate change communication and waste education consulting services for clients, such as local councils.
I’ve also been a host, moderator, keynote speaker and occasionally the event producer for a stack of public events aimed at engaging audiences in science, sustainability, health and environmental topics. For example, I produced and hosted ‘Risk business or worried well? The science of why and what we fear’ for EPA Victoria during last year’s National Science Week. This week I’ll be hosting the Celebrating Women in Conservation breakfast.
At Science in Public, I look after our work for health charity the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia and national publicity for National Science Week. We also media train scientists, so that they can bring their research to key audiences, from journalists to policy makers to school groups to the broader public.
We also run media programs for major conferences. I’m particularly excited that Australia will host April’s World Congress on Public Health (@wcph2017) and Ecocity World Summit (@ecocity2017) in July, and Science in Public will be managing media for each of these. I’ll be tweeting some of the interesting and exciting things I’m learning about public health as we work on these conferences – note that my tweets from @WePublicHealth and @Ha_Tanya are my own views, and not those of Science in Public or the two conferences and their organisers.
My background also includes teaching the Human Behaviour and Environment subject at the University of Melbourne, reporting for ABC TV’s Catalyst show, a masters research project in behaviour change during the transition to motherhood, and terms on the boards of Sustainability Victoria and Keep Australia Beautiful.
…and, like all of us, I’ve got a personal interest in public health because I’m human. I’m a mother of two, the sister of a breast cancer survivor, the sister-in-law of someone who died from lung cancer, and the daughter of a physio mother and GP father (who ironically has preventable lifestyle-related illnesses). I care about the health of the planet, my friends and family, and billions of people I’ll never meet but I know they’re there, breathing, eating, living and loving in their own communities.
What I’ll be tweeting about
Given my background is such a bag of mixed lollies, I thought I’d loosely tweet on a different theme each day:
- Monday: health and environment in the media – insights from Catalyst days, how the media has changed in recent years, how to make the abstract tangible (e.g. preventative health), insights from media training scientists.
- Tuesday: public events – drawing on my experience with National Science Week (past ambassador, current publicity advisor), how public events can be used to promote public health. And I’ll be visiting my dad at his nursing home, so I’ll probably tweet about that.
- Wednesday: my insider’s guide to the World Congress on Public Health – what the big themes and speakers are, and (more broadly) how scientific conferences can broaden their reach beyond academia and hopefully have a lasting impact not heir host cities.
- Thursday: people and places, plus a bit of girl power – This is the day I’m hosting the Celebrating Women in Conservation annual breakfast, so I’ll tweet about that and what I’ve learnt from female role models in the environment movement and in science. I’ll also focus on nature, conservation, climate change, urbanism and public health: nature restoration theory and why the urban form matters.
- Friday: communication for behaviour change – lessons from both environmental and health campaigns, the psychology of behaviour change and environmental problems, how we communicate risk without harming mental health, and the importance on understanding who you’re talking to.
- Weekend at home: personal stories from my life experience.
Caterina Giorgi, co-founder of For Purpose – @purposeaus – and a self-confessed policy nerd and politics tragic who is interested in policies that address growing inequality, was in the chair. For Purpose harnesses the collective knowledge, skill base and resources of people working for Purpose. The idea behind For Purpose is simple – to overcome the mammoth social challenges that we face – we need to invest in the people working to making the world a better place.
For Purpose works in three key areas. We have a professional community, deliver professional development and provide coaching and consulting. All of this is informed by what for purpose professional want and need to be supported in their roles as change makers. For Purpose was started by Caterina Giorgi, a self-confessed policy nerd and politics tragic who is interested in policies that address growing inequality.
This week, For Purpose is holding its Annual Summer School. The Summer School covers advocacy, communication and tools for change – all important skills for change makers. We’ll be tweeting live from the Summer School from Wednesday until Friday – where you’ll hear from 20 change-makers. Across the week, we’ll also share all things social change and social policy, including what’s happening in politics (following an epic fortnight of sitting in Canberra). We’re also keen to highlight the amazing work being undertaken by organisations from across Australia.
Dr Melissa Haswell – @im4empowerment discussed and shared news on some of the intersections between climate change, the environment, public health – and love, courage and inspiration, too. A sample of her tweets follows below.
Dr George Crisp, a GP in a small family medical practice in Shenton Park in Perth, was in the chair – @DrGCrisp. He is the current WA chair and a national committee member of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), a voluntary group who have an interest in the relationship between human health and environmental damage. Along with a GP colleague ( Dr Richard Yin ), he co-developed “Greenpractice” in 2009, an initiative to promote the awareness of climate change as a health issue in general practice and advocate the health co-benefits of taking action. George writes regularly in the local and medical media on environmental health matters. His time at @WePublicHealth coincided with Federal LNP Government Ministers passing around a lump of coal in Parliament, extreme weather conditions including bushfires in NSW and flooding in WA, and with the annual #healthpolicyvalentines Twitter thread.
Anthony Zwi, Professor of Global Health and Development at UNSW, was in the chair – @HEARDatUNSW. Professor Zwi focuses on global health and development policy and has interests in their interface with equity, social justice and human rights. He seeks to build partnership between Australia, the Asia-Pacific, and Africa and to promote capabilities in global health, development policy, and disaster planning, management and response. Read more about his work here.
Karen Wyld – @1KarenWyld – tweeted on cultural safety, food security and shared some of the news from #InvasionDay marches and rallies. An author, blogger and consultant, Karen is of Martu descent, and was born and has lived most of her life on Kaurna country in South Australia. She is the proprietor of Wyld Words bookshop in Port Noarlunga. According to her consultancy website, Karen has worked within many sectors, accumulating professional capabilities and qualifications that allow her to provide a diverse range of services. She has a background in: community development; workplace training; project management; training and assessing university students; Aboriginal health and services; and primary health care. Karen contributed to the #JustJustice book and project. Read more from Karen here.
Jason Rostant – @jrostant – has worked in a variety of policy, advocacy, management and education roles in NGO and government settings over two decades and across four states. His career has included direct service delivery in youth homelessness and suicide prevention, campaigning for Tasmanian gay law reform, policy advisory roles in several capacities, and senior executive management in community health. Previous employers have included cohealth, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, and a minor party Senator. Now working on a consultancy basis, Jason’s specialist interests include health access and equity; rights-based practice and advocacy; models of community development, consumer-led practice and co-design; and organisational development and change management. Jason has a Bachelor of Social Work from Curtin University.