a his & hers weblog of worlds apart
Health sounds like something I’m supposed to eat, but tastes really bad.
– Excerpt from The End of Illness, David B. Agus, pg. 10
The feelings we have about health will vary depending on a variety of factors, including life experiences, age, socioeconimc status, and physical ability. Understandably, the 18-year-old ‘invincible’ male is likely to have a very different feeling towards health in comparison with the 70-year-old who has lived with a chronic illness for over 30 years, or someone who has survived cancer. Ironically, health has increasingly become a trendy topic, even as rates of obesity and diabetes continue to soar in the Western world.
Having both a professional and personal interest in health, the term generally has a very positive association for me. That’s not to say I’m as healthy as I could be. Like most people, I have weeks and months that I’d define as ‘healthier’ periods and weeks and months that I classify as ‘not-so-healthy’ periods. As a rule I try to have more ‘healthy’ than ‘not-so-healthy ‘ months. But I know myself enough to know that those ‘not-so-healthy’ times are bound to come around on occasion.
My recent introduction to Pinterest has me thinking about health in a new way. The design-inspired online social ‘pin board,’ has been lauded as one of the fastest growing independent websites ever. In browsing the site’s addictive and beautiful eye-candy, I’ve become fascinated by how one can apply this visual/design tool to the area of health. The more I think about, the more I see tremendous value in the idea of letting people visually depict what health means for them. As Health professionals, these personalized portrayals of health could help us better understand how various groups understand and perceive health, and provide insight that could inform new ways to address public health issues. And from a more personal perspective, the boards themselves could potentially inspire individual creators to live a healthier lifestyle.
I’m not the first to consider that Pinterest can go far beyond a consumer wishlist. Sean recently pointed me to Grant McCracken’s piece ‘Pinterest as Free Market Research,’ which considers the site to be ‘culture in action':
From this point of view, Pinterest is a treasure. It’s a chance to see American culture as if from a glass-bottom boat. Yes, some of it is a little reductive. But sometimes what people stuff into the categories is a chance for us to see exactly what they mean… Oh, so that’s what YOU mean by home. Here’s what I mean. In a culture that flowers with an increasingly diverse variety, this is useful.
Others have discussed the potential use for Pinterest in healthcare:
So why should healthcare marketers care about Pinterest? Since its users are predominately female, it’s a great way to reach women, who are healthcare decision makers for families…Hospitals can use Pinterest as a content curation tool to pull content from different parts of the web to help with education and patient engagement. They could be creating boards about exercise for their orthopedic or physical therapy groups or creating boards for chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes and heart disease) that compile recipes, success stories and exercise tips.
Only a handful of health related organizations are currently on Pinterest (the American Public Health Laboratories is one.) But I don’t think that it will be long before hospitals and health clinics jump on board.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my ‘Health’ pinterest board. It is harder than I thought it would be, but has been a fun challenge. Initially pretty standard ‘health’ images came to mind: a crisp green apple, a basket of fresh vegetables, someone doing yoga on a beach. But when I think about what health ‘looks like’ to me, this isn’t really an accurate representation. For example, while being physically active is certainly part of what health means to me, I am far more likely to go for a run on a Saturday morning than I am to do yoga on a beach. I don’t think I’ve ever done yoga on a beach. And because I live in a city, I’m likely to be running through city neighborhoods, rather than a country field. Health means having down time to read a book or the newspaper. A lingering dinner with close friends, delicious food, a good bottle of wine (or two!) and a good laugh: that is kind of what health looks like to me.
Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to organize a litte Pinterest Personal Health project. Initially I’m hoping to get some family and friends on board to create their own personal health boards. If you feel so inspired, please join in on this bit of healthy experimentation. I’m so curious to see what sorts of insights this collection of personalized healthy artifacts reveals.
If you are so encouraged to participate, please share your board with me: either leave a comment below, send me a note, follow my Health board and I will follow yours. In this case, the whole will certainly be greater than the sum of its parts.