Fostering Public Participation, Not Just Reception

It is a common misconception that the responsibility for the wellbeing of our community lies entirely on public health professionals. As part of the common public, we often demand improvements in healthcare policies, resources and information in the mindset of a recipient. It is this one-way, “receiving” mentality that often hinders maximum efficiency of public health campaigns. Often, the public health campaigns will need the general public to contribute toward the projects, examples of which include blood drives, demanding blood donors, and disease prevention, calling for the public’s change in practice. Not only that, there can be many regional and racial limitations imposed through certain ways of delivering the need for participation. Such limitations arise from the context in which the information is presented as well as the accessibility of the medium. In other words, it is crucial to implement the need for active participation and a culture that creates a “dialogue” in needs of public health throughout all the different subsets of the population in order to achieve maximum campaign efficiency.

By targeting the managers of public health campaigns, we strive to shift the atmosphere of public health from a one-way delivery of information for a small subset of the population toward a widespread dialogue between the people and the public health officials. We will ultimately address the fact that calling forth action from a larger population in a nondiscriminatory manner will maximize public health campaign efficacy.

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Current range of KUHF radio transmittance (https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news887/ways-to-listen/)

To do so, our project will evaluate the efficacy of Passing in Review’s instigation of public participation for MD Anderson’s newly opened Blood Bank. Aired on KPRC radio in Houston, 1946, Passing in Review can be taken as an example of an attempt to increase public participation in public health issues. In particular, we will be analyzing the broadcast on two levels: we will firstly dissect how the need for blood donors was presented and secondly investigate the accessibility of the broadcast by different racial, socioeconomic and gender groups. For example, Passing in Review presented blood donation as painless and easily do-able through interviews with experienced donors. It also specifically called for women participants, specifying the similarities and differences in male and female donors. Doing so expands the target audience of the campaign from just males to both males and females. However, the intrinsic nature of 1940’s radiobroadcast spoken in English limits the audience to Houston’s wealthy, English-speaking population that owned radios, and did not have work late on Friday nights. This is a possible critique for Passing in Review’s campaigning efficiency. As such, analyzing the positive and negative aspects of the broadcast in expanding the population for blood donors will ultimately help us to pinpoint out what needs to be improved in regards to widening the range of participants.

Our project, keeping in mind that our audience is public health campaign managers, will take the form of a formal presentation, proposing what needs to be improved in the delivery of campaigns. We will also have websites and pamphlets ready to give out to these officials to further enhance accessibility to our guidelines on how to increase public participation. To effectively do so, we will research how accessible the Passing in Review broadcast was towards the different ethnic and socioeconomic groups and its resulting change in blood donation participants. This information can possibly be found through other archival records on increase in blood donors. We will pay special attention to what groups of individuals decided to donate their blood (we predict the majority to be of upper-class, Caucasian males). We will also research the campaigning methods utilized by current blood drives to point out what aspect of it, specifically, can be ineffective in reaching a broader audience, and how it can be improved. Such information can be found through public health campaigns found in various forms themselves including websites, pamphlets and radio broadcasts.

Looking Back to Move Forward

People often regard the field of science to be a study heavily focused on innovation: developing a treatment method better than the previous, building a device more effective than the previous, and doing research more groundbreaking than the previous. Inevitably, researchers are always looking to pump out studies to publish—“new” and “revolutionary”. Perhaps this “innovative” aspect of science that pushes us to be ever more forward-thinking may, in other cases, hinder us from appreciating the work that we, as a community of scientists, have accomplished. Trying to build on the most recent model of “best method”, often the models from years to decades ago can get chucked away. The visit to the McGovern Historical Center was an invaluable experience in that not only were we able to see the medical journals of the 60’s and get a hands-on feel for surgical tools from decades ago, but, ultimately, it was also a reminder to cherish the steps we took to stand where we are in science and medicine today. As I found out, there was still so much to learn from these decade old archives.

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Camman’s Model Stethoscope, circa 1900, very similar to the one at McGovern (Image: http://melnickmedicalmuseum.com/2009/12/01/a-short-history-of-stethoscopes/)

Prior to the visit, the thought of an archive brought to my mind stacks of old books, lined by manuscripts chronicled merely by their placement in the seemingly endless row of shelves. When we arrived, I was most excited to see the old models of the stethoscope and forceps that we now call DeBakeys after Dr. Michael DeBakey from Baylor College of Medicine—legend of cardiovascular surgery. I was pleasantly surprised to see the old nursing gowns as well as amputation kits used on war grounds. In particular, I found it intriguing that Sandra Yates, our archivist, pointed out that having wooden handles for the amputation saws was probably not a good idea. As soon as I heard this, I was disgusted by a major possibility of the Marburg virus being transmitted (as we read in Preston’s The Hot Zone) while, simultaneously fascinated at the importance of selection of materials in engineering surgical tools. The recognition of viral transmissions and health risks associated with handles that soak up blood was probably a major step forward in health care during the time period that followed.

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Surgical Kit, circa 1850-1880 (Image taken at McGovern Historical Center)

The archived surgical kit from around 1850-1880 helps us to recognize this fact. Furthermore, because our multimedia project handles the Passing in Review radio program, we were able to see the original record that holds the recording. Archivist Sandra Yates noted that even she was surprised to receive the abnormally big record. She also pointed out that there no longer is technology to retrieve audio from such huge records and that it was a good thing the audio was already retrieved few years ago. In this I saw 1) the importance of timely management of archival materials in different kinds of media and 2) the modern technology involved in retrieving archival materials such as old records and floppy disks.

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Passing in Review Record (Photo taken at McGovern Historical Center)

As I looked around more and started reading the journals, I was particularly interested in Cooley’s Step-by-Step Transplant Film published in October 4, 1968 in the Medical World News magazine. Being the cardiovascular surgery nerd I am, Dr. Cooley had only been the legendary figure pioneering heart transplants. Seeing the photographs from the first successful artificial heart transplant was truly a humbling experience. I asked Sandra if they had more films of Dr. Cooley’s and Dr. DeBakey’s surgeries and she was glad to let me know how to access the films. In particular, the deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA) surgeries and patients’ post-surgery reports from the time period were especially intriguing to me as a major research currently in cardiovascular surgery concerns neuronal damage as a result of DHCA. These are the kinds of archival records that help to identify flaws in surgical procedures still in use today.

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Cooley’s Step-by-Step Transplant Film published 04/10/68 Medical World News Magazine (Photo taken at McGovern Historical Center)

 

In sum, the field trip to the McGovern Historical Center was truly a humbling experience—being able to handle decade old magazines and surgical tools. I now recognize the importance of knowing where we started to acknowledge the innovations of today. I was further enlightened by the fact that such archival materials help to point out flaws that, decades later in time, we still try to understand (as in the case of DHCA surgeries). I am excited to revisit the McGovern Historical Center to scavenge for more Texas Medical Center surgery and patient records if chance allows.