Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, October 30, 2006

On the road again . . .

So no time for serious blogging today. I thought people might be interested in knowing why I'm on the road, and what I more or less do for what is more or less a living. The road trip has to do with a project to convene state governments and community organizations and activists to promote policies to address racial and ethnic disparities in health. Although the federal government pays for most of publicly funded health care, and the CDC is a public health agency for the nation, states in fact control most of the policy levers related to public health and health care. I plan to write about that in more detail in the coming week.

When I'm not doing that, I study physician-patient communication, with particular emphasis on language and culture as factors affecting health related communication, and how people understand and respond to health and illness. I have developed a method, based on speech act theory, for decomposing and analyzing conversation. The primal version, as it were, is specifically designed for understanding communication about medication adherence, but it can be adapted just about any purpose. We have developed software (still in a buggy stage) for implementing the system, and other systems for coding conversation. I have also made an extensive study of encounters with language interpretation, and I'll actually be presenting some findings from that work at the American Public Health Association meeting next week. Again, I plan to write more about this in coming days.

So as you can see, I swing both ways - macro-level health policy, and micro-level medical sociology. I have the interdisciplinary program at the Heller School at Brandeis University to thank for the training, and the inspiration, to span both levels, and particularly the example and encouragement of the late Irving Kenneth Zola, who invented the study of cross-cultural medicine, as well as the study of disability as a sub-discipline of sociology.

Why am I telling you all this? In less than a month, it will be Stayin' Alive's second birthday. I thought it was appropriate, leading up to the massive celebration, to let a little more slip out about who is doing this, and maybe start to bring the blog closer to my regular work. We'll see how that goes, or whether events out in the world will continue to tempt me away from any strong focus.

Thanks again for reading, and responding.

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