Medical Analyst at Software Advice
by Katie Matlack
Women are the more active gender on online social networks, and are the healthcare decisionmakers in most families, too. Taken together, these two facts help explain why women--moms in particular--often are responsible for using the web to bring powerful stories from the grassroots level to the world, effecting real change in healthcare.
To learn more about the topic I spoke with Deb Levine, a pioneer when it comes to using the web as a tool for social change related to health information access and technology. She founded the award-winning online sexual health Q&A site Go Ask Alice, and recently won an award from the White House for her team’s design of an app used to help prevent dating violence at colleges and universities. Levine, a mother of two, observed that being a mom “informs all of [her] work and writing” and is “an overarching influence” on her.
“Women who are mothers are writing about sensitive issues,” she continued. “[They] 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.”
Below, I’ll discuss three moms doing important work to improve healthcare and the tools available in health for the wellness of themselves and their families--and ultimately, of all of us.
1) Deb Levine - Trustworthy health information access for young adults
Levine built what’s known by many as the first major health Q&A site, Go Ask Alice; it was also named by Stanford University as the most accurate reproductive health info site on the Internet. The site’s success--it receives over 1.5 million hits per month--illustrates what Levine’s work showed us: that “topics considered to be shameful and embarrassing like sex are best discussed behind a screen–computer screen then, mobile phone and PDA today.” Today Levine directs a nonprofit, Internet Sexuality Information Services, and is organizing next month’s conference, Sex::Tech, on new media, youth, and sexual health.
2) Jodi Jacobson - Advocacy for public health and reproductive and sexual health & justice
Visit RH Reality Check (RH stands for reproductive health) to get an idea of Jacobson’s impact. She’s the Editor-in-Chief there and writes regularly about news events that stand to impact reproductive health rights. For example, Jacobson was partially responsible for publicizing and drumming up outcry against the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s policy change in February that, were it not reversed, would have denied preventative health services to thousands of women. In addition to providing information directly to the masses on this site, Jacobsen frequently weighs in as an expert cited in mainstream publications including the Lancet and The Economist. She also founded and led the Center for Health and Gender Equity, an internationally-influential organization that produces cutting-edge research on international policies and programs.
3) Mary Brune - Connecting moms to information about toxic environmental risks
Brune’s work highlights important information that impacts infant health as well as environmental health conditions that touch us all. Her site, MOMS--which stands for “Making
Our Milk Safe”--was founded to bring mothers together to collaborate for a healthier and safer environment for their children. It publicizes risks and protection measures on toxics, and has been featured in a PBS special on toxic toys.