Connected Nation - Pitch: Making Public Health 2.0 - Madeline Balaam, Newcastle University

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Are you interested in how digital technologies can revolutionise public health nationwide? FeedFinder and AppMovement are two digital tools that put communities in the driving seat, allow communities to create their own public health content and to become actively involved in commissioning their own public health services.

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Madeline Balaam, Newcastle University

Hi, I'm Madeline Balaam and I'm delighted to be here with Emma Simpson and Andy Garbett at Stand 2, where we'll be talking about Making Public Health 2.0. So in our research at Open Lab we are really curious about the role that social media and social computing technologies can play in supporting communities to commission, create and contribute to their own public health interventions and messages. And so we're showing two case studies today of examples of how we're working in this area; the first of which is FeedFinder and the second, which came after, is AppMovement.

So I’ll tell you a little bit about FeedFinder. FeedFinder is a mobile phone application that we designed and developed with breastfeeding women to help women find places, share places and review places for public breastfeeding. You might ask; why is that important? Well in fact one in ten women choose not to breastfeed in the UK for fear of breastfeeding in public. So, right now we have over 5,000 women using our mobile app and they have recorded around about 2,000 places to breastfeed in public in the UK. We reckon we're probably one of the largest resources of women's breast feeding experiences in this country.

What we’ve found from doing this work was that women really trusted this resource, they knew it came from other people like them, they were willing to contribute responsible information to this resource, and more than that they could use this information to advocate for their own breastfeeding resources in their own communities. This led us to a number of other questions, like how can we help sustain these kinds of interventions, and how can we evaluate them in ways that public health and health officials will understand as being rigorous?

So one of the ways that we are answering this question is through App Movement. App Movement addresses an issue of sustainability. We recognize when we created this app, FeedFinder, that there wouldn't be many commercial companies that would build a mobile application like this for free for a community – time’s up!