I attended Trampolineday.com on the weekend. I decided to put my name down for an open discussion session on ‘Tools and solutions to address key issues facing our society’.
Melbourne is the second most liveable city according to the Global Liveability Survey list – compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, yet I don’t believe we’re the second healthiest and happiest nation.
I am alarmed by statistics and trends around the rate of antidepressant usage, obesity rates and alcohol consumption. Thankfully, I believe technology and social media can reverse these trends. In the following paragraphs I outline a few concerning statistics and discuss great examples of technology based solutions.
Depression & Mental Health Disorders
- Antidepressant use continues to escalate in Australia. In 2008-2009, there were 12.3 million scripts written for antidepressants, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report on Australia’s Health 2010.
- The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that an estimated 3.2 million Australians (20% of the population aged between 16 and 85) had a mental disorder in the twelve months prior to the survey.
- The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2020, depression will be the second biggest health problem world-wide, behind heart disease.
Obesity in Australia
- More than 14 million Australians are overweight or obese, according to Monash University’s Fact & Figures.
- If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2020, 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.
- Obesity and being overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases including: Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke and certain forms of cancer.
- It is estimated that about 3200 people die as a result of excessive alcohol consumption and around 81,000 people are hospitalised annually. The cost to the Australian community of alcohol-related social problems was estimated to be $15.3 billion in 2004/05.
“Alcohol plays an important role in the Australian economy. It generates substantial employment, retail activity, export income and tax revenue. Alcohol also has an important social role. It is a familiar part of traditions and customs in this country and is often used for relaxation, socialisation and celebration. Eighty three percent of Australians reported drinking alcohol in 2004. It is a drug that can promote relaxation and feelings of euphoria. It can also lead to intoxication and dependence and a wide-range of associated harms.” http://www.health.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/nas-06-09
Tools to help fight these trends:
I feel we need to collectively take a more active role in discussing and finding solutions to key challenges facing our society. We could start by raising awareness of the issues and talking about solutions.
I’m pleased with the changes introduced affecting the cigarette industry, government banned glamorous advertising, made packaging contain health warnings and look hideous, ran advertisements alerting you to the dangers of smoking and hopefully shifting your attitude towards smoking, increased the purchasing age, introduced legislation so supermarkets no longer display stock and can only use black and white stickers to show the brand and price, increased taxes to make the product less affordable. Do some similar style changes need to be applied to our Fast Food industry?
Technology Based Solutions
Technology – Global Collaboration Challenges
An awesome, American based 5 day speed innovation challenge called ‘ No Right Brain Left Behind’ was run in collaboration with Social Media Week 2011. Advertising agencies, innovation companies, design consultancies and communication schools were invited to concept ideas to for the creativity crisis in U.S. schools http://rightbrainsare.us/ “The power of an idea can transcend wars, politics, races, and economies. We hope that this collaboration will demonstrate the ability of our leading creative minds to step up to the challenges where conventional thinking fails.” At the end of the 5 days, the best ideas were selected to pilot in 2011 and 2012. I submitted a few ideas to Bud Caddell’s Bucket Brigade entry: http://whatconsumesme.com/2011/posts-ive-written/join-the-bucket-brigade-to-support-creativity-in-education/ The power of opening up social problems to the world for feedback is why I am a huge technology fan. Interconnected Social Media applications make collaboration easy. I saw Bud’s tweet using TweetDeck, clicked through to his WordPress blog and submitted my entries via his Google Docs form. He then compiled and reviewed all the entries and submitted 14 entries http://rightbrainsare.us/author/thebucketbrigadeinternational/ to the competition. The ‘crowd’ then voted for their favourite entries by using the ‘Like’ button. The most ‘Liked’ entries were shortlisted.
I hope that industry, individuals and the Australian Government can run a similar speed innovation challenge to address some of the key issues facing our society.
Technology – Online Memberships fostering real life Meetups
Humans are social beings. I believe we’ll reap huge benefits by increasing social participation. I recommend the site www.meetup.com. It is not a dating site, it is a site that allows you to find groups of people with similar interest in your area. Their tag line: ‘Do something, Learn something, Share something, Change something’. In Melbourne the photography club has 700 or so members that get together and help each other learn and improve their skills as well as socialise. There is a ‘two legged walking club’ which arranges walks across Victoria and grades each walk so that people of varying fitness levels can participate. I hope to see a rise in the number of applications developed harnessing the power of ‘Location Based Services’.
Technology – promoting good causes
Great initiatives run by not for profits, community groups and government are now more visible:
Hello Sunday Morning – for those ready to take a three month break from our drinking culture and find out what life is like without a hangover. http://hellosundaymorning.com.au/
Blossom Project is designed for young women aged from 16 to 25 who are experiencing anxiety and depression. http://www.lantern.org.au/our-services/blossomproject/
How can friends ‘sponsor’ their friends, to help them reach their goals? For example, agree for a friend to come to their house and weigh in once a week, talk about their eating habits and share favourite healthy recipes.
The lunch shop at my children’s school sells: hot dogs, dim sims, party pies, pizza, chicken schnitzel rolls, zappos, crisps, sweet biscuits etc. I believe they are consequently endorsing poor food choices. My son gets a treat in his lunch box most days, for example an Uncle Toby’s muesli bar which is roughly 35% sugar or an LCM bar which is very highly processed and full of sugar, however he complains that there is only one other child in the class that gets less treats than him and that most children get multiple treats each day. Healthy nuts are banned. How about banning processed foods with a sugar content above 20% or saturated fat content above 10%. Ultimately, I want a healthy and happy future for my kids.
Chocolate Quit Campaign – what are the percentages of women that would say chocolate contributes to their weight related issues? Mmm, chocolate.
Where to from here?
I will share this blog entry and continue to research and talk about these issues and encourage others to do the same.
http://hellosundaymorning.com.au/ For those ready to take a three month break from our drinking culture and find out what life is like without a hangover.
Monash University article on Obesity in Australia: http://www.modi.monash.edu.au/obesity-facts-figures/obesity-in-australia/
Article ‘Tackling the blues – facts about depression’: http://www.femail.com.au/tackling_blues.htm
Government preventative health initiative:
National Alcohol Drinking Strategy 2006 – 2009 – Towards Safer Drinking Cultures: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/B83AD1F91AA632ADCA25718E0081F1C3/$File/nas-06-09-1.pdf
Ten tips to cut down on alcohol: