The Power of Storytelling and Social Media: B’s Allergy Video Part 2

In my last post, I had the opportunity to show you the first of B’s videos, which for me started out as a simple tool to help our family manage our kids’ allergies, but then turned into an exciting example of the power of patient and caregiver design for health.
The week following the debut of the video, it went “viral”. After sending it to his teacher, it was shown during the daily morning video announcements to his entire elementary school in California, reaching over 700 children and 40+ teachers. And his message was powerful enough to have been picked up by a much larger community interested in health.

That week I had attended the IDEO design workshop held at the Medicine X conference and showed it to Dennis Boyle , partner and Health & Wellness Lead at IDEO, who loved it and graciously shared it with the health technology enthusiasts at the workshop. Then Seattle Mama Doc , Wendy Sue Swanson, talked about how the video brought the allergy “paperwork to life” and Susannah Fox, Associate Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Survey, presented the video along with much more polished health education videos. And I even presented the video at the Cusp Design Conference this fall, where branding experts spoke about the power of the video and the storytelling expertise of my very own son!

We were even inspired to make a second video about how ingredients are handled after the teachers had him mixing cupcakes using allergic ingredients in school. It really pushed him to work on his spelling and pronunciation skills: “casein…lactoglobulin…” and he now is taking ownership to look at ingredients on boxes to see if they are allergic or not. And he has his own blog, as well now, to house all of our allergy resources.

This experience made me realize that social media is an extremely powerful health tool, for patients, moms and dads, and health care providers. It’s accessible (anyone with a smart phone can create a simple video with little difficulty); it has the potential for wide reach (the voice of a 6 year old boy can be carried very far across the social network); and it brings the patient voice front and center (I think the video really resonated because it was done with B’s drawings and B’s voice; no one wants to hear his mother’s voice or see his mother’s poor artistic talent ).

I now think a lot about how we should be using these technologies to empower kids and parents in our diabetes clinic and in our health system. Can you share examples of how you or others have used social media to educate, inform, and take action, inside or outside the health arena?

Published on: December 17, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Joyce Lee MD PhD

Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan. She is a pediatric diabetes specialist (Pediatric Endocrinologist) who works with children and families at Mott Children’s Hospital, and she is a clinical researcher whose work focuses on childhood obesity, diabetes, and growth and pubertal development.

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The intention is good, but this is the perfect example of How to confuse children’s minds by telling them meaningless and obscure words.