This week we are considering a new topic broadcasted through New Media platforms – health. The new wave of health and lifestyle websites and apps are sweeping the New Media world and tie into our previously discussed themes of branding, user participation and social networking – also both with positive and negative considerations.
Health apps and online diagnosis sites have come a long way. Many are now administered by professional health organisations (see the NHS system here) and are extremely convenient given the rising costs of seeing a doctor, and time constraints on doing so in our busy society. It empowers those who are let down by traditional medicine, much as the internet empowers those let down by mainstream media.
On one hand, self-diagnosis and education can be extremely beneficial. On the other, internet usage has been linked to an over-use of prescription drugs (Nielson and Barratt, 2009) which has been linked to the development of resistance to antibiotics (see WHO press release here). It has also been pointed out that online health info ‘lacks the regulatory and gatekeeping mechanisms of traditional medicine’ (Lewis, 2006). I personally believe the shift in power towards the user is a good thing, but with medicine the stakes may be too high. After all, if bloggers can range from the rich to the ridiculous, who knows who is sitting behind the advice on your screen! And lets not forget the computer won’t give you a lollypop for saying ‘ah’….
Lewis, T. (2006). Seeking health information on the internet: lifestyle choice or bad attack of cyberchondria? Media, Culture & Society, volume 28, issue 4: 521-539
Nielsen, S. and Barratt, M. J. (2009). Prescription Drug Misuse: Is Technology Friend or Foe? In Drug and Alcohol Review, volume 28: 81-86