Backgrounder: Interview with Joy Johnson
Johnson, a University of British Columbia nursing professor and science director for the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, notes health research is more important than ever.
- Q: What are your thoughts on the importance of health research these days?
Health research is more important than ever. We in Canada and globally are facing a number of pressing health issues and research is key to help us address these issues. For example, diabetes continues to be on the rise and we need to find interventions that can help individuals, families and communities manage diabetes. Alzheimer's disease is another example where we are seeing increasing numbers of individuals and families affected by this condition. New discoveries about the mechanisms of these diseases, ways to treat these conditions, and ways the health system can respond more effectively to those affected are required.
- Q: How important is it that health researchers share information about their work with the media and the public? How best do you think they can do that?
At present the public does not fully grasp the importance or impact of health research. Now, more than ever, it is important for health researchers to share the outcomes of their work. We need to use multiple channels of communication to get our message across. These channels include social media, traditional media sources, websites, blogs and newsletters. We also need to help equip researchers so that they feel fully prepared to talk about their findings and engage with the media about their research.
- Q: What are your thoughts on the importance of the work that will be showcased at SFU's upcoming Faculty of Health Research Day?
Given the fact that the health science faculty is relatively young, I'm impressed with the scope and depth of health research being conducted at SFU. The research day allows us to shine a light on some of this excellent work. It is my strong sense that this research is making a difference to individuals, families and communities and that this work needs to be celebrated. As word of my new appointment at SFU has been made public, I have had several individuals across this country reach out to me and tell me how impressed they are with the research being conducted at SFU. Health research at SFU is cutting edge and is increasingly being recognized nationally and internationally.
- Q: What do you think of the importance of media coverage of health research challenges/discoveries? Are the right issues getting attention?
The media plays a key role in helping to tell the story of health research. I've heard some people complain that the media tends to focus on new commercial products and new discoveries in the basic sciences. There is a tendency to focus on these types of stories because they are compelling. The challenge for us is to learn how to talk about the contributions of all of our health research and help the public understand its importance. In other words, I don't think that there's a problem with the media focusing on the wrong issues, rather we need to learn how to be more compelling in the way that we share research findings.