Wonky Health – Crowdfunding health writing

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What makes people ill? And, perhaps more importantly, how can we keep people well? At medical school I was taught that everything came down to a combination of genetics and the environment, which is a way of saying just about nothing. We might go on to describe risk factors – smoking, blood pressure, lack of exercise, poor diet, alcohol – as being key. If you read the papers, staying well seems to be about ensuring a constant supply of supernutrients, amazingly to be found in that marketer’s client’s product. Being ill was purely about hospital beds, miracle cures and shiny machines – now sometimes phone apps.

Ask my patients why they are ill, and none will give these answers. They’ll say they can’t afford food basics, let alone superbooberry extract. They will talk about poor security in their homes, being unable to get a job, having to look after disabled relatives.

A while ago, I suggested to Melissa Sweet that Croakey should cover the health effects of policy decisions, and Melissa said, “Good idea, can you do it?” Croakey blog is funded by a group of organisations with an interest in public health. This funding doesn’t cover writing for new columns, and Croakey is experimenting with ways of funding other columns, such as the conference reporting service. This, of course, is at a time when the mainstream press are all seeking ways of generating revenue. So we thought we’d try to crowdfund the column. This would allow me paid time to write it every two weeks, and pay Melissa for editing. Wonky Health was born!

Social media is crucial to both the funding model – spreading the word, especially through Twitter – but also in making this more than just a column with a writer and some readers. We want to collect ideas, be directed towards relevant research and create a forum for discussion. The crowdfunding model kick-starts this – at the time of writing we have 130 supporters.

Into this comes the recent federal budget. There are measures that will have a clear impact on health, such as the Medicare co-payment. But there are many other measures outside the health portfolio that will impact on health. The changes to Newstart payments, the increased university fees, changes to the pension – all of these are likely to have impacts on health. The evidence on their health impacts won’t be looked at, the likely heath effects won’t be reported anywhere else. It’s why what was a good idea has become a necessary one.

We have a week to go. You can support a new way of funding health writing, and change the conversation we have about health. Go and pledge now!

The story of the project


Tim has reached his target with 5 days to spare. Thank you for your generosity and support to make this happen!

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