Friday, 31 January 2014

What are the most persuasive types of blogs to recommend to your patients?

Say you were seeing a person newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. You wanted, among other things, to recommend some blogs written by other people with diabetes. What factors would help you decide which types of blogs to recommend?

Sock or money?
A team of researchers from Northwestern University set out to try and explore this challenge with 150 undergraduates, careful classification of likes / dislikes and a target behaviour of taking up or increasing running. In lab-based experimental conditions they looked at two styles of blog - narrative (story telling) and non-narrative (didactic). They also classified by 'source similarity' - non-health-related similarity (i.e. similar laptop makes) and health-related similarity (similar health-related behaviours).
"The source similarity effect was stronger in nonnarrative than narrative blogs. When the blogs were nonnarrative, those with health-related similarities were more persuasive than those with non-health-related similarities. Narrative blogs generated more positive thoughts and stronger blogger identification than nonnarrative blogs." (1)
From this basic research - which should be studied in the real world of chronic disease - it appears that recommending a patient blog that is narrative or one that is non-narrative but written by a patient with very similar health issues may be the most persuasive for behaviour change.

1) Lu AS. An Experimental Test of the Persuasive Effect of Source Similarity in Narrative and Nonnarrative Health Blogs. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Jul 25 [cited 2014 Jan 31];15(7). Available from:

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Why we should encrypt ALL email.

So I thought I'd try to encourage some encrypted email. I only had one exchange last year with another equally geeky person. We didn't say much that was really private but it was an interesting experiment. Sometimes though it's nice to think that my message will only get to the person intended and couldn't be read by anyone else.
"there are also people who really need privacy in their communication. Think of e.g. peaceful activists who might be spied on by governments to make their lives more difficult. By protecting all mail, it makes it more difficult for governments to identify and harass people who actually do need the protection." source: (my emphasis)
I've therefore set up a contact page with public keys for my personal and work emails and will see how many encrypted messages I get.

The software for OpenPGP is much better than it was a few years ago. There are plenty to choose from. Browser-based (i.e. using javascript to encrypt or decrypt your messages never writing to the hard disk) such as mailvelope can be used on multiple platforms; but haven't found a free one yet for my iPad or Android phone though. Any suggestions welcome.