Health Communication

Open data at the intersection of environment & human health

A listserve post this week from inside the EPA indicates that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to encourage software developers to use its data to make useful applications about the environment and human health.

The U.S is farther ahead than Canada on open government and open data.   South of the border, the Open Government Initiative encourages federal agencies to make data more accessible so it can be used in innovative and helpful ways. EPA makes a lot of its original data more accessible via this site, but many software developers who create innovative open-access applications for the public out of public data don’t even know it exists. They also don’t know that agencies encourage this kind of activity.

Other agencies, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have made their data available and done a great job of building awareness about their data (see the Community Health Data Initiative and the Health Data Community). The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored a challenge called Apps for Healthy Kids that encouraged developers to make apps to keep kids healthy.

The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. wants ideas for how they can better reach software developers and the people who would use these applications.

North of the border we need to be pressuring Canadian government to open up more of our data to the citizens who pay for it, and to better use our tax dollars by connecting with altruistic open data developers who are ready and willing to create applications for the public good.

Chewy tip:

Oscar Hemer and Thomas Tufte’s anthology is a great overview and introduction to the communication for development/communication for social change field. The book – Media & Glocal Change: Rethinking Communication for Development – has been around for a few years, and is a recommended read.  But at well over $100 with the Scandinavian publisher, it wasn’t an impulse buy.

So, great news that the whole book has now gone ‘open knowledge’ – via the Latin American publisher.  All the chapters for can be downloaded free! The chapters are all separate pdf’s, and they’re in English.

The anthology is well worth time as an introduction to what is still quite a new field.  Just five years ago there seemed far fewer institutions offering advanced degrees and specific training.

It’s an exciting area.  There are a number of people now brainstorming on or starting to create improved DevCom/C4D networks, which could be so valuable –  for bouncing specific project challenges off of other practitioners with similar training,  to build community, to share resources and new research,  or to improve measurement/ evaluation/outcomes.

The two authors of the now-online anthology are based in Scandinavia, but work and have lived all over the world.  Thomas Tufte is a really interesting thinker, and one of the global leaders in entertainment education – most recently doing research in Tanzania.  Oscar Hemer founded the Malmo, Sweden program that has certified so many  development communication practitioners worldwide since it began ten years ago, and has initiatied a real comdev community.  Oscar also continues to do interesting work exploring international examples of literature as a weapon/catalyst for social change (most recently in Chile).

Just a few highlights below, to tease you over to more on the whole anthology site.

There’s lots more to download to too, plenty of chewy chapters – including those by:

James Deane (connected to Consortium on Communication for Social Change)

Gordon Adam (of Media Support, who in addition to project-leading radio training in places like Cambodia and Afghanistan, has been doing some really interesting recent work in Pakistan creating communication strategies aimed at averting some of the  youth sign-on with Taliban).


See all the book chapters here.