Socal Mapping: Connect the Dots

I want to talk to you about social mapping. The longer I live in the same town, work in the same industry and volunteer — the more I see the invisible network of my social universe. That means that I know that Sam, who is on the library board with me, used to work at the college, so he’s a great person to ask for who to talk to there. He knows my friends, Peter, the health care lawyer and his fundraising wife, Kerry, who also go to my church. They know the former city councilwoman, Judy, who is on the board of the health clinic — she’s their neighbor! And she may know the mom of one of my son’s friends, Jack, who is also a writer and she’s a great person to refer me for developmental editing jobs (see the recommendation in my last post!) for college professors, who also know Sam! It means that I can’t give a lot of advice about where to find new clients because my biggest projects have always come from my social network.

But here’s some wisdom I can offer. When you want something, but don’t know how to get it, start making a map of people you know and see if anyone can get you the introduction or the advice to get you there. You may be surprised and who is a good connection, or who turns out to be a great connection! I often use online tool Coggle to map out concepts and it’s great for social mapping as well. I start with “mutual friends” on Facebook and then go to “mutual connections” on LinkedIn…it can be interested to see that you know a bunch of people from the same gym, sports team or that your kids go to school or play sports together. It’s a kind of networking — but really it’s just making visible your existing connections in your town.

Here’s an example: I am working on a fundraiser for a political campaign, and I want to know where the candidate and I overlap. So I make a social map. People we know in common, some are obvious, some are surprising! Then I look through my lists and see who I’m surprised that we don’t have in common, people who are active in politicals, who work in the same field or live in the same neighborhood — these are people where I can make an introduction, and that is potentially a very valuable introduction if it expands his network in a positive way. It could be for lots of reasons, social or business, but helping other people with their networks will help yours in the long run. (Have you read Inga Carboni’s book, by the way?)

Try it locally. Try it for your industry. It’s a great way to map out pathways to your goal.

Infectious!

After giving a presentation this week on infectious diseases and deciphering health information, plus attending an excellent SHSMD session on the handling of the Ebola panic, I have a few thoughts. 

1. Even if all of us who work in the medical field think that people should know something, it's best to go back to the basics. Like the super-basic foundations of science -- for example, that a virus and a bacteria are different things but both can make us sick. Or, that one study does not science make!

2. Internal communication is ultra-important in a crisis. It's not enough to reassure the public. You must communicate to your staff, your board members, your volunteers and anyone working in your hospital. Because your credibility goes in the toilet when you say "We're prepared" but the reporter interviewing nurses on the loading dock hears "We've had no training on this."

3, Fear is a strong motivator, even if people know they shouldn't be afraid. They are, and they want to play it safe. I heard from someone who was thinking of firing her nanny because the nanny's mom was a nurse. It sounds like an overreaction now, but if you recall earlier this year, we were a nation on the edge of our seats as to whether we'd have an outbreak or not.

4. Communication takes time. It can be laborious when you want to be doing (let's go!!!) but it will save you time in the long run. Return people's calls (especially reporters!) even if you don't have anything new to share. Tell your employees what to expect. I agree with Doug Levy (formerly of Columbia University Health System) who said "Communication can't solve everything but it puts you in the best position to catch flaws in your plan." 

Infectious diseases are a tough topic, but one that we will continually revisit. They won't go away -- but we can educate and we can prepare. Oh, and we can communicate! 

Hospitals -- More than a Building, Part of the Community

I finally sat down to read the Community Connections publication put out by the American Hospital Association, a book full of ideas and innovations for health care leaders related to community programs around the country. The range of programs was interesting, from offering volunteer doulas to pet care during hospice to arranging for meals to be delivered home for food insecure seniors. I think that hospitals sometimes get a bad rap for their size and the amount of money they circulate in the community -- but they are often at the heart of communities in the United States in big cities and small towns.

I think that in our great cultural shift in health care we will see more partnerships and more preventive care -- both essentially important to our community health. From cultural health navigators who assist female refugees from the Middle East / Southeast Asia / Subsaharan Africa in Phoenix to training African American barbers how to measure blood pressure and serve as heart health advocates in DC -- identifying cultural barriers to health is important.

It's heartening to see things that didn't used to fall under "health" be recognized as part of our whole selves. For example, dinner programs for breast cancer support that include communications skills, nutrition, stress management, intimacy and finances, which both builds a sense of connection with the group but also recognizes that resources are needed for these challenges. A retreat for stroke survivors and their families meets similar needs in support, education and socialization.

Prevention is also more of a focus, looking to prevent falls and injuries by strengthening flexibility with exercise (Idaho), student health coaches for those with chronic conditions (Pennsylvania) and instruction for physically disabled individuals to play sports like fishing, swimming, wheelchair basketball and hand-cycling (Iowa.) A hospital in Oklahoma offers a drive-through flu shot clinic to encourage high risk patients. It's important to address the current issues while preventing future ones and there are many adaptations we can make to help keep communities healthy. I applaud hospitals for their innovation and compassion.