“People talk about the Internet as the Wild West, but Google has been very supportive and responsive in promoting back-and-forth communication.” | Nancy Heath
Like many of us, Nancy Heath goes to Google practically every day. She didn’t expect Google to come to her. But that’s what happened in February 2011 after Heath and her colleague at the University of Guelph, Stephen Lewis, published their analysis of 100 YouTube videos in which people shared their cautionary tales about self-injury. The two million views these videos had racked up weren’t necessarily a good thing, despite the best intentions of their creators. “The messages were trying to help others by saying ‘Don’t do what I did,’ but the people watching the videos were already self-injurers looking for a community of other self-injurers,” says Heath, a James McGill Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology.
This concerned Abbi Tatton, Manager of Global Communications and Public Affairs for YouTube (owned by Google). She wrote to Heath and Lewis asking how YouTube could provide healthy video alternatives for self-injurers. “It was a great idea,” says Heath. “The problem was, we realized there weren’t any.” So they created their own. A year in the making, Self-injury Outreach and Support (SiOS) is a global resource that provides recovery-focused information for people who self-injure, as well as teachers, health care providers and parents. Since SiOS launched in April 2012, it’s received hits from 64 countries. Heath says it’s just the beginning of what she hopes will be an ongoing consultation with YouTube to help at-risk viewers access useful information. “People talk about the Internet as the Wild West,” says Heath, “but Google has been very supportive and responsive in promoting back-and-forth communication.”
Antonia Arnaert is also exploring technology as a health care tool. The Associate Professor at McGill’s Ingram School of Nursing has spent close to 20 years exploring ways to help patients with limited mobility–whether they’re housebound in Belgium or living in a remote corner of Quebec–receive quality long-term health monitoring. She recently piloted a project for the Public Health Agency of Canada in which diabetes patients in five Quebec regions used smartphones to transmit their vital signs and lifestyle information to a nurse who monitored their health from afar. The long-term challenge in the creation of what Arnaert calls “u-health”–where “u” means ubiquitous–isn’t so much about creating a smartphone app that monitors blood sugar levels, or how a wound is healing or EKG readings–it’s yoking together all those apps to produce “a single holistic overview of the patient’s condition.” The easy part, explains Arnaert, is getting the patients to use the technologies. “The patients say they feel they get lots of attention from their nurses, even if they’re separated by thousands of kilometres,” says Arnaert. “We even had an 85 year-old patient who was so technologically advanced that she showed the nurse how to use the software!”
Global connections are essential for building prosperity in the 21st century, whether it’s bridging the gap between patients and caregivers, or bringing together the world’s brightest minds to tackle big picture problems:
A record number of lottery corporations around the world joined the Faculty of Education’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors and the U.S.’s National Council on Problem Gambling in their annual campaign to highlight the risks of giving lottery tickets as holiday gifts to minors.
The McGill World Platform for Health and Economic Convergence and INCLEN Trust International–an India-based, global network of biostatisticians, social scientists and health care professionals–co-hosted a major workshop in Delhi, bringing together researchers, policy makers and top executives from multinationals like PepsiCo and Medtronic, to discuss ways to curb hunger and improve nutrition and health around the world.