Catching up: a few select article of note

Todd Vandenbark

Health literacy logoThis past week a number of articles worth noting have been posted, and rather than devote an entire post to each one, I will offer a summary and encourage readers to visit ones that interest them.

First, the Center for Health Literacy Promotion Blog has a great story about “Esther,” a woman in the 1830’s whom the author calls “ahead of her time.” Too sick a 21 to help on the family farm or marry, she became a servant in a convent. When she became too sick to work there, she was sent home, where she founded a school, taught others to be teachers (who then started other schools), and broke social norms of the time to teach boys and girls together. At age 40, she and her teachers were recognized by the Catholic Church, becoming the Order of the Sisters of Saint Anne. While it may seem far afield to mention religious education in this context, closing words from the post make it a bit more relevant:

Aunt Esther was born two hundred years ahead of her time. Today her vision of literacy as the foundation for health, an escape route from poverty and the key to the advancement of women and society is an idea whose time has come. She inspires my work at the intersection of health and literacy.

The second item worth noting is a wiki created by researchers at the University of Michigan that is a catalog of more than 100 medical devices and technologies that can be used in poorer areas of the world. Example include:

  • Pedal-powered nebulizer for asthma treatments
  • Using a hand-cranked salad spinner as a centrifuge for blood samples
  • Small, wax-filled sleeping bags that could be used to keep premature babies warm

Finally, an article in the Wall Street Journal asks some challenging questions about mobile devices and the future of medicine. In short, with all of the add-ons that are being created for smartphones, how will this transform the practice of medicine? The author offers these examples:

You can get an add-on to a smartphone which does eye refraction and then texts [the prescription] to get your glasses made. If you’re an optometrist, you might be worried about that. Or you can get your skin lesion scanned and get a text back quickly that there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re a dermatologist, that’s a big part of your practice. You will be able to take a DNA sequence on a USB port and pop it into your smartphone and get data out of it. It just goes on and on.

For patients that live a distance from a specialist in one area of medicine or another, online appointments could be used to maintain communication and improve patient outcomes. And many yet-to-be-invented uses of technology will radically alter how medicine is practiced. Yet medicine, as a profession, is slow to change. Will technology change that, or will it leave traditional medicine behind?

What do you think of these different stories and what they have to offer? Tell us!