Sunday, August 28, 2022

Making Research Matter

 Health and Care Researchers

Tara Lamont. 2021. Bristol University Press [ISBN 978-1-4473-6115-2. 198 pages, including index. US$34.95 (softcover).]

“Researchers start their work wanting to make a difference. The extra steps and actions set out in this book and elsewhere to reach and engage people in meaningful ways, paying attention to story, language and appropriate channels are part of the job of a researcher in the 21st century. Research findings should not stay in the library or on the university bookshelf. They should be translated and worked up with the right communities into new policies, decisions, conversations and practice” (p. 166). This summary statement of Making Research Matter: Steps to Impact for Health and Care Researchers by Tara Lamont embodies her argument that the relevance of current research and its resulting impact on society are critical now more than ever.

Lamont’s introduction uses her own storytelling tools of chapter 8, the example of Florence Nightingale and her report to the Indian Sanitary Commission, published in 1863. The “pull” Nightingale created for her report included concise and orderly summaries with vivid images. These briefs were circulated among people like John Stuart Mill and even Queen Victoria- people whose support she would need later in promoting the policy and reforms suggested in her report. Nightingale forged ties with decision makers who could implement reforms themselves or communicate with others for influential changes. And she did it all without Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn! It is proof that the skills of impact for research resonate then as they do now despite the vast difference in the technological tools available.

Making Research Matter starts each chapter using the Why, What, Who, When and How format. The Why follows the introduction to clarify the overall importance of her book. In the current information and digital climate, the sheer amount of research available has increased exponentially. It is important for people to discern valuable research from either false data or irrelevant results. Valuable research involves asking the right questions of the population involved. One example compared mechanical devices to manual compressions in treating cardiac arrest in an ambulance. A high-quality research study proved that the outcomes for each showed negligible difference, and therefore the cost of implementation was not worth it. However, when staff were interviewed, they said that the technology allowed them to sit securely in a seatbelt which made them feel safer. This detail addressed a separate issue from cost analysis and could only be determined through interviewing the right people.

Lamont’s arguments for increased communication and interaction between researchers, policy makers, and lay people describes an ideal culture of collaboration, support for necessary reform and openness to change. It is her hope that researchers in all areas of health and care examine their skills, interest, and investment in this type of exchange for the enhanced quality, relevance, and implementation of valuable research findings into all areas of healthcare and wellness.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

New Digital Natives

Supporting New Digital Natives: Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in a Hi-Tech Age

Michelle Jayman, Maddie Ohl, and Leah Jewett, eds. 2021. Bristol University Press. [ISBN 978-1-4473-5645-5. 210 pages, including index. US$45.95 (softcover).]

Mental wellness and digital technology are traditionally not viewed as collaborative partners, especially in youth development. The negative aspects of digital technology include cyberbullying, inappropriate visualcontent, social media competition, and the (sometimes) misconception of “too much screen time.” However, nobody can dispute that exposure to technology is unavoidable—from online homework to discussion groups on Zoom, students are required to have an email address in early elementary school. With the new reality of technology-savvy younger children, it is critical to figure out the implementation of it for maximum benefits/fewest risks and how to impose critical boundaries. To this end, Supporting New Digital Natives: Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in a Hi-Tech Age was compiled in ten chapters with sources at the end of each chapter, a section on the background of the contributors, a glossary, and index. The editors selected eight case studies by health care providers, teachers, and mental health professionals/researchers to approach mental wellness from a complex wholistic landscape rather than examining any one influencing factor.

“These eight case studies were selected because of their original contributions, each focusing on different aspects of CYP’s (children and young people) lives which are inextricably linked to mental wellbeing, such as friendships and relationships, play and learning experiences, and opportunities for connecting with nature and the community. More than this, each chapter is a platform for raising CYP’s voice, rightly placing them, as experts in their own lives, at the heart of mental wellbeing interventions and services” (p. xxx).

Ironically, the first case study on supporting new digital natives (as the title states) introduces a pyramid club that removes children from all technology and places them in an intentional support group—an environment where they can practice relationship building in a supportive place. For ten weeks, kids meet with other kids who either lack social skills and/or have trouble with friendships. During these ten weeks, the kids do activities targeted toward connection, building teamwork, and creating a safe space like arts and crafts, food preparation and sharing, and circle time. This approach contrasts with the next case study in which Book of Beasties is used to explore how to get children to build virtual friendships through an online card game. “Children learn best in interactive environments which invite them in as interactive collaborators and include content which is meaningful to them” (p 96).

One of the common negatives associated with digital technology is the reduction of outdoor play for children—this is the basis of Forest School and Girlguiding. These case studies look at the effects of nature on the mental wellbeing of youth and the importance of building a support community. In the girlguiding study, the implementation of digital technology has improved some of the programs and the girls are encouraged to use the technology if it helps them.

One of the final case studies introduces LifeMosaic—an app for a smartphone that tracks various data points that might help children understand their mental health better. For example, after tracking sleep and diet they might see the link between poor eating habits and poor sleep quality—and their overall mood as a result. The app allows children to design their own study and then plot graphs and charts which can be shared within their online LifeMosaic community.

All these studies describe either the use of technology to enhance mental wellbeing or the intentional removal of technology to eliminate a technology-driven issue—the intersection of which is a balance the new digital natives of our generation will be forced to eventually navigate themselves.

Julie Kinyoun

Julie Kinyoun is an on-call chemistry instructor at various community colleges in Southern California. An avid reader, she enjoys reviewing books that help her become a better educator.