By Anny Huang, Naomi Limaro Nathan and N. Charles Hamilton
Call me strange, but when I think about the intersection between public health, podcasting, and climate change all at once, the mental image that unifies all three fields is the iceberg. Surely it makes sense for climate change, as its by-products are the destruction of enormous ice shelves. You can kind of see how it applies to public health too, when you consider that the field tries to address all of the issues beneath the surface of an individual’s present health complaints (i.e. the social determinants of health). But podcasting and icebergs? What is the connection? (apart from the fact that there IS a podcast called “The Iceberg”, but I haven’t listened to it so can’t really comment.)
At first glance, podcasts seem pretty straightforward. There are a bunch of people, who have something to say to the world, so they record a podcast and share it with people who might want to listen. It’s a no brainer. But when you take a dip below the surface, many more interesting questions appear. (There’s the iceberg, ka-ching!) The fact that anyone can record and publish a podcast means that we should consider the question of whose voices we end up hearing in the podcasting arena.
With our podcast Talk Public Health, we invite and prompt our audience to reflect on who is doing the talking, and to whom. Maybe it sounds like we are having a conversation with each other as podcast hosts or with our guest interviewees. But I can assure you that ultimately, we measure our success by the engagement of our listeners and viewers on the other side of the screen [speakers and headphones, haha]. In fact, we think that this is critically important, and why we even designed a research study about our audience. The “Public Health Learning on Podcasts and Social Media” aka PHLOPS study was created by us, for our audience, and it looks at whether podcasts could be an educational tool for public health students and young professionals. You can help us out with this new research by filling in the online audience survey after you listen to the podcast.
While filling in the PHLOPS survey, you would have probably realised that the whole thing is fairly low-key and low-budget. And this brings us back to the question of “who”. The fortunate fact of today’s world of web 2.0 (more about this in a future episode of our podcast) is that we, as early career professionals in public health (and also not from Europe or North America), are able to have a channel where we can talk about public health topics that are important and interesting to us and our peers. This would have not been possible a few years ago, when we would have simply lacked the professional clout to make our voices heard.
Thinking about unheard voices, it might surprise you that our guest interviewee in our inaugural episode was the Minister of Health of the Bahamas, Doctor the Honorable Duane Sands. Surely he does not need yet another microphone? But once again, this is where we need to step back and consider that the concept of “talk” occurs in multiple directions. While the Minister of Health may have many opportunities to talk to other ministers, or to the general public as a whole, can he demonstrate the link between climate change and health to an audience of public health students and enthusiasts? Can he discuss both the direct impact of Hurricane Dorian and its aftermath on the health of the population in a way that inspires early career public health professionals to learn more about the topic?
Fortunately, both for Dr. Sands and for our podcast, he passed the test with flying colours. As the leading voice for health of a small island developing state (SIDS), he laid out with great eloquence how we should consider the concept of climate injustice. Not only are there structural and systemic inequalities between countries, but also internally, there are inequalities between Bahamian residents, which also pose additional challenges, in the response to Hurricane Dorian. I’m being deliberately vague here, because you need to listen to the episode to find out for yourself. Dr. Sands articulates it far more eloquently than I ever could.
Climate change and health are by no means the only topics that we discuss in Talk Public Health, but it highlights one of the discrepancies between the curricula at public health schools and our interests as young public health professionals. We are grateful for the accessibility of our podcast as a medium to bridge this gap, and we hope that you will subscribe to us to follow our journey of discovery through a range of different topics in public health.
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