Geekdom for Grrrls health : Australian undergraduate experiences developing and promoting women’s health in cyberspace

Carroll, Julie-Anne & McCarthy, Rebecca (2010) Geekdom for Grrrls health : Australian undergraduate experiences developing and promoting women’s health in cyberspace. In International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation Proceedings, ICERI, Convention Centre - Melia Castilla Madrid, Madrid.

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There is an increasing global reliance on the Internet for retrieving information on health, illness, and recovery (Sillence et al, 2007; Laurent et al, 2009; Adams, 2010). People suffering from a vast array of illnesses, conditions, and complaints, as well as healthy travelers seeking advice about safe practices abroad, and teens seeking information about safe sexual practices are all now more likely to go to the internet for information than they are to rely solely on a general practitioner or physician (Santor et al, 2007; Moreno et al, 2009; Bartlett et al, 2010). Women in particular seek advice and support online for a number of health-related concerns regarding issues such as puberty, conception, pregnancy, postnatal depression, mothering, breast-cancer recovery, and ageing healthily (van Zutphen, 2008; Raymond et al, 2005). In keeping with this increasing socio-technological trend, the Women’s Health Unit at the Queensland University of Technology (Q.U.T), Brisbane, Australia, introduced the research, design, and development of online information resources for issues affecting the health of Australian women as an assessment item for students in the undergraduate Public Health curriculum. Students were required to research a particular health issue affecting Australian women, including pregnancy, pregnancy terminations, postnatal depression, returning to the work force after having a baby, breast cancer recovery, chronic disease prevention, health and safety for sex-workers, and ageing healthily. Students were required to design and develop websites that supported people living with these conditions, or who were in these situations. The websites were designed for communicating effectively with both women seeking information about their health, and their health practitioners.

The pedagogical challenge inherent in this exercise was twofold: firstly, to encourage students to develop the skills to design and maintain software for online health forums; and secondly, to challenge public health students to go beyond generating ‘awareness’ and imparting health information to developing a nuanced understanding of the worlds and perspectives of their audiences, who require supportive networks and options that resonate with their restrictions, capabilities, and dispositions. This latter challenge spanned the realms of research, communication, and aesthetic design. This paper firstly, discusses an increasing reliance on the Internet by women seeking health-related information and the potential health risks and benefits of this trend. Secondly, it applies a post-structural analysis of the de-centred and mobile female self, as online social ‘spaces’ and networks supersede geographical ‘places’ and hierarchies, with implications for democracy, equality, power, and ultimately women’s health. Thirdly, it depicts the processes (learning reflections) and products (developed websites) created within this Women’s Health Unit by the students. Finally, we review this development in the undergraduate curriculum in terms of the importance of providing students with skills in research, communication, and technology in order to share and implement improved health care and social marketing for women as both recipients and providers of health care in the Internet Age.

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ID Code: 37839
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: women, health, online, communication, pedagogy
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Medicine Nursing and Health Curriculum and Pedagogy (130209)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 12 Oct 2010 22:15
Last Modified: 30 May 2011 14:58

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