Moms who are blogging, tweeting and sharing online about health issues are a powerful force for change. In this post I’ll discuss why, and highlight six moms who’ve already impacted healthcare.
Why Blogging Mothers Matter
Women are the power users of social media and are the directors of healthcare for most families. So it’s no surprise that women–and especially mothers–frequently bring stories about sensitive health issues to the world via the Internet.
“Women are the people who, in bringing health issues to the forefront, are pushing healthcare reform and access while also bringing attention to important issues like maternal mortality,” said Deb Levine.
Levine is a mother of two and founder of the award-winning online sexual health Q&A site Go Ask Alice. She’s also the recent winner of the White House’s challenge to design an app to help prevent dating violence on college campuses.
“A mother will do anything for her children,” added Levine. Given the growing healthcare challenges in this country, that imperative may be part of what’s fueling more women to advocate online for change.
Six Moms Making an Impact
Here are six moms doing important work to better healthcare and the health tools available to themselves and their families–and ultimately, to all of us.
1. Deb Levine – Making access to trustworthy health information easy for young adults
Levine was a pioneer of using the Web to discuss sensitive topics when she created Go Ask Alice in 1993, arguably designating it the “first major health Q&A Internet site."The site provides a Q&A on sexual and other health and emotional challenges facing college-aged kids. It was named by Stanford as the most accurate reproductive health information resource on the Web, and today over 1.5 million people visit Go Ask Alice each month. Levine’s work has made clear that “topics considered to be shameful and embarrassing like sex are best discussed behind a screen–computer screen then, mobile phone and PDA today.” Levine directs Internet Sexuality Information Services, a nonprofit, and will host a conference next month on new media, youth, and sexual health.
2. Elita Kalma – Sharing information with women of color on the importance of breastfeeding
Kalma, a librarian, started her blog, Blacktating, after searching for information on breastfeeding online and realizing few moms of color were being heard in the conversation. Kalma shares information and recounts her own story to help other mothers realize breastfeeding is one of the ways to counter child obesity and can also make children better off on a range of other health issues; since according to the Surgeon General breastfeeding rates are about 50% lower among black children at birth compared with white children, Kalma’s role as a role model and an informed guide for the black community is a critically important one. She recently weighed in on the importance of Beyonce’s choice to breastfeed for the black community because of their lower initiation rates, and also called out the major news sources which completely failed to mention the event’s racial significance, which had sparked an hours-long conversation on black Twitter about breastfeeding.
3. Jodi Jacobson – Advocating for public health and reproductive and sexual health and justice
Jacobson, the Editor-in-Chief at RH Reality Check, is a leading voice in monitoring and promoting accountability to women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights. She’s partially responsible for publicizing the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s policy change last month that, had it not been reversed, would have denied preventative health services to thousands of women. She’s been quoted extensively in the Lancet as well as The Economist, illustrating her influence on both medical and mainstream thought leaders. Jacobson founded and led the Center for Health and Gender Equity, an internationally-influential organization producing “cutting-edge research on international policies and programs” as well as a “leading source of information and advocacy for international and domestic movements, academics, program managers and the media.”
4. Robin Strongin – Eliminating “gatekeepers” to drive disruptive change in the health sphere
Strongin’s blog, Disruptive Women in Health Care, has been around since 2008. It serves as a platform for “provocative ideas, thoughts, and solutions in health,” recognizing that the industry needed a push from some outsiders to advance the pace of change. The women posting on her blog highlight underreported issues such as food allergies in children; the importance of better incentives for mobile health in the U.S.; and the surprising shortage of primary care physicians accepting new patients. By “disrupting the health care status quo,” the blog aims to amplify the voices of its bold women contributors through its coverage in important media outlets including CBS, The Hill's Healthwatch and mHIMSS.
5. Penelope Trunk – Creating dialogue around miscarriage and health issues working women face
Trunk, who has two young children, blogs about “the intersection between work and life.” She inadvertently caused a media uproar when ABC, CNN and AOL covered her tweet about her own miscarriage. The attention brought to this story created mainstream discussion about the misplaced shame sometimes associated with discussing health issues. Trunk wrote poignantly about the misconceptions around miscarriage by defending her choice to discuss the event with revealing statistics:
Most miscarriages happen at work.Twenty-five percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Seventy-five percent of women who are of child-bearing age are working. Most miscarriages run their course over weeks. Even if you are someone who wanted the baby and are devastated by the loss, you're not going to sit in bed for weeks. You are going to pick up your life and get back to it, which includes going back to work. This means that there are thousands of miscarriages in progress, at work, on any given day. That we don't acknowledge this is absurd. That it is such a common occurrence and no one thinks it's okay to talk about is terrible for women."
6. Mary Brune – Connecting mothers to information about toxic environmental risks
MOMS–which stands for “Making Our Milk Safe”–is the site Brune founded to act as a national grassroots movement for mothers to collaborate for a healthier and safer environment for their children. The group is partly an advocacy organization keeping environmental health regulators in-line, and partly an online resource to publicize information about risks and protection measures. PBS featured MOMS as a resource in a piece on toxic toys. Visitors to the MOMS site can sign up to receive a newsletter regular updates about contaminants and risks, as well as steps parents can take to protect their children.
Collaboration may be the next important step for these women and others like them. “Those doing work around health issues must band together to become an advocacy movement,” said Levine.
Please share your thoughts on what I’ve said about the role moms play in using Internet tools to advocate for better health care by commenting below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thumbnail image created by: Robert Whitehead