If "e-health" was simple ...

Back when I studied Medical Anthropology at Smith, one of the jokes we loved repeating at cocktail parties was the one about the applied anthropologist who went to Africa on a mission to cure diarrhea. He had lots of training, the best of intentions, and state-of-the-art equipment and medicine.

Prior to launching his campaign, he asked the village elders to gather the community for an introduction to the project. At the gathering of the tribe, the anthropologist drew a picture of the village, the water sources, and used a large, plastic 3-D fly model to illustrate how water is contaminated.

The villagers listened intently and understood the tone of urgency in the anthropologist's presentation. Then, at the close of the meeting, a wise elder spoke up with concern. He said, "I understand this dangerous problem. You must remedy it. It is a good thing that we do not have such big flies here." ...


I love this anecdote because it illustrates the extent to which how we talk about what makes us sick (and what makes us healthy) is 100% culturally bound. Without a bridge between a gifted doctor's clinical gaze and a patient's humble testimony, much meaningful, curative potential is squandered. Stories matter.

Read e-patient's A thousand points of pain


Who reads Coco?

Okay, so comments aren't the only way a blogger knows her readers are out there ... I recently drafted a synopsis of my blog and readership. It was an interesting exercise.

Below, let me share what I discovered:

  • Since I don't sell or pitch or rant on my blog, that leaves me to the slightly awkward process of writing about whatever's on my mind -- regardless of how it relates to the post from 3 weeks ago, or yesterday, or tomorrow.
  • If I had to put my finger on why I write, it is to practice building bridges. It is my hope that my own openness encourages others to grow too.
  • While still modest by Web 2.0 standards, my traffic performs well across most of Google's benchmarks. Visits, length of visit, loyalty, and average time on site are my strongest measures of engagement.
  • Geographically, readership spans every single state in the union. My most loyal readers are clustered in California, DC, and Massachusetts, with significant pockets of traffic emerging in Florida, Michigan and New Mexico, too. (I have many to thank!) Coco attracts some modest international traffic as well.
  • The "loyalty" metric of my traffic is interesting: over 50% of my unique visitors came back between 10 - 200 times in less than a year. An even more convincing measure that my readers get something out of Coco posts is the fact that 30% of those readers have visited between 100 - 200 times in under a year.
  • I try to post 3-4 times per week, but only if I've got something real to cover and time to cover it.
Before I close, I would like to share that I was trained as an anthropologist, first, and a communicator second. I believe that each day we bloggers and technologists and marketers are together inventing a global communication system in real time. It is extremely exciting to be part of this "call and response" paradigm-in-the-making. Glad you joined me on the ride and let me know if you ever want to guest post.


Simple homemade Valentine hearts

We've been making these simple calico necklaces for years. They're simple and affordable:


Buy 2 pieces of calico that work together. Adhere them together with "Stitch Witchery" or the like.

Using a heart-shaped cookie-cutter, trace heart pattern onto the fabric.

Cut the hearts out.

String a piece of raffia and a wooden bead on each heart.

Tie a not at the top so that the necklaces are easy for people to slip on.


Have fun! In a few years you'll have a great collection of 'em hanging around because you won't want to throw them out.


Chaos still a part of mothering

Having been separated from my professional identity so abruptly last week, I returned to the paradox of home a bit unprepared.

This topic is difficult to write about, and even more difficult to relate to unless you've walked a similar path yourself. So, I am editing myself heavily on this page today ... probably will for a while.

But, one of my favorite expressions from work was "At a high level." It was invoked to skirt around tough stuff, political drama, disagreement, or hierarchy challenges. It was elegant, cool and clean to get out of the weeds and keep the conversation/ideas at a high level because that's business. This morning it dawned on me that:

At a high level, being home means living the low level.

It's about being open to hurt feelings, to right and wrong, and justice. Being home with your kids is about tolerating the natural flow of dreams and disappointments and ... housework. It's about keeping the spark and spontaneity and sobriety alive.

There are no guarantees that our kids will live long lives, or contribute wonderful things to the world. But my ability to keep this in mind is what helps me manage as a connected parent. As I just heard the Director of the Sidwell Friends Lower School say, "It's about with-edness."

Today, if you have a thought to share with me about your "withedness" as a mother or as a working woman/mother, I'd love to hear from you. Funny, sweet, sour or sad, post a comment anonymously, or by name.


People, not patients

Healing is about people, not patients.

I don't mean to be ridiculous by stating the obvious. Also, I do realize that all health-related institutions and companies "put people first" on some level. My concern is that very few of said businesses venture to the place where they consider modifying a core model in order to make people less dependent on their product or service.
There is simply too much money on the table.
In addition to all that money, which is very difficult to give up, I wonder whether the barrier to businesses shifting is the unpredictability of people.

In these days of health reform and innovation, there is talk about educating doctors, work flow improvements, insurance provisions, new gadgets, avoiding medical error, reducing drug-to-drug interactions, diet, healthy living, the genomic revolution, earlier interventions, etc.  While each of these single channels has merit, not a single one of them acknowledges the wildness of people and the chaos of healing behaviors as a starting place.

Why is it that we find it so very difficult to discuss how to cultivate the wild seeds of health; the creative and intuitive "I AM" that powers the best healing. As I write I am wondering whether working with a person's wild side could at least be an option. 

Isn't acknowledging an awareness and understanding of the wild side as efficient as spending billions to tame it?

The most gifted physicians and nurses get how people matter -- they always have. Some business people are starting to understand. Now we need the top creatives to bring everything they've got (which is more than color and layout expertise) to the table. We need the hearts and minds of these creative people to give voice to people's health problems in a new way. The solutions we market as "healing" will be much better for it.

Creative business partnerships that put authentic experiences of people at the helm are the future of health 2 and 3.0 applications.

Sketchnote by @thegraphicrecorder

The mother of all health reform
Are we betting on the "me" in medicine?
14 takeaways from Gel Health 2009
A limitation of Health 2.0: Interpersonal interoperability 
Cosmos or chaos: Which way to health reform?
Shopping for health insurance
 If e-health was simple...

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Be careful who you work for

I read this Seth Godin post in the fall. I remember being struck by it then. Now, one of my Tweeps (Twitter friends) linked to it today, out of the blue. I re-read it anew and think it is a good piece to keep in mind when you are starting a new chapter:

Be careful of who you work for (Seth Godin)

The single most important marketing decision most people make is also the one we spend precious little time on: where you work.

Think about this for a second. Your boss and your job determine not only what you do all day, but what you learn and who you interact with. Where you work is what you market. Work in a high stress place and you're likely to become a highly stressed person, and your interactions will display that. Work for a narcissist and you'll develop into someone who's good at shining a light on someone else, not into someone who can lead. Work for someone who plays the fads and you'll discover that instead of building a steadily improving brand, you're jumping from one thing to another, enduring layoffs in-between gold rushes. Work for a bully and be prepared to be bullied ... Read all of Seth Godin's post