Start a public health blog (Part 1): Change the world with your writing

“I write to discover what I know.”
–Flannery O’Connor

In a time where there is so much content on the internet, are my words really going to matter?

We’ve been releasing great, inspirational content these past few weeks through the “Thinking outside of the box” series. We hope you have enjoyed them as much as we did.

To wrap up the series with a bang, I wanted to write a blog that would convince you to take action right away. When I sat here thinking about what that could be, Dr. Brett Belchetz’s conversation kept coming to mind. During my interview with him, I had asked whether there were any memorable experiences that set him up to think outside of the box and gave him the tools to start Maple. In his response, he talked about how he found an outlet to share what was important to him through writing editorials, which in turn gave them the opportunity to be recognized as an expert in the field. He went on to tell listeners about the importance of sharing their thoughts and opinions through writing:

“Try to write. We live in an era where anybody can write a blog. Anybody can send a submission for an editorial column…For someone who wants to be more involved, who has ideas, go out and network, make content, write editorials, reach out to people…”

Not having thought too much about why people wrote editorials or started blogs, I was interested in learning more about it. My curiosity led me to read a lot of articles (no shortage of that on the internet) about why people wrote. I also asked people in my network why they started a blog (a collection of these findings will be available on blog 3; and in blog 4, I will take you through the technical steps to actually set up your own blog site; spoiler alert: it’s super easy and costs nearly nothing)! Before I get too far into those, here, in part 1, I take it upon myself to convince you that your passion needs to see the world, and that your perspective is important.

Your writing does make a difference

One article I really enjoyed reading (because it really hit home for me) was a piece titled “5 Ways to Change the World with Your Writing” written by Meghan Tschanz. If you have a few minutes, please do go over and read the entire blog because it’s really worth the time! However, if you don’t, that’s ok too because I will be summarizing it here.

The first point I want to have you think about here is your purpose (so deep, I know). But really, think about it. Meghan puts it well in her article:

“I have this feeling that we aren’t hapless creations put on the earth to eat, talk, and die. I feel like we were put here for a purpose, to make it better. We are here to change the world…Most people can agree with this is one way or another. We try to be good people and want to contribute something to this earth that goes far beyond us; something that lasts longer than the amount of breaths we take.”

Let’s start with an easy question like “why did you choose the field of public health for your career?” You spent several years training in this one field (or you are currently being trained in the field), probably because you felt a connection to public health. What is that “connection” you felt?

I have always thought about my purpose; and why I connect with public health so deeply. For me, public health was a way to impact an entire population’s health.

My journey into public health was not intentional. I stumbled into it as I navigated the stressful years of undergrad at U of T. I thought I would become a dentist when I entered university. Fortunately, a number of elective courses I enrolled into guided me to the world of public health, and into Epidemiology. One such public health course, had a beautiful quote at the beginning of an assigned reading. These words were so profound and powerful, and resonated so much with me, that they became words I wanted to live by:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main….any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

This course, along with others, introduced me to the concept of population health, and to great public health figures like Edward Jenner (pioneer of the smallpox vaccine), Florence Nightingale (a nurse who improved sanitary conditions in hospitals), and in modern day, Paul Farmer. These individuals inspired me with their selfless contributions to the world. The kind of impact they were making on the human population was not at an individual level, but rather, in the thousands and millions. When you want to see change, you want to see it in these large numbers, and that’s what I wanted to do.

The reason I started PH SPOT was to support others also on the same path as me. I was driven to build something that was bigger than me, which would bring value to more people than I could ever imagine meeting and inspiring.

Similarly, I believe that each individual pursuing public health does so for a reason unique to themselves. You might feel very passionate about a certain topic, whether that’s vaccination, the built environment, or maternal health, and it’s the reason driving your public health career. With this blog, I challenge you to take your passion and think about sharing it with the world, to change it for the better.

You might be thinking, okay, I am passionate about a topic, but there already exists millions of bloggers and articles out there. Does my two cents really matter?

I would argue that your words do matter, here’s why. I used to think the same thing, that there is already something like this out there, but then I heard somewhere that often your audience comes to your platform for the content, but then they end up staying for the community you have built. This has proven to be true for PH SPOT as well. Thousands of readers have stumbled onto the site because of a certain article or resource, and hundreds have then ended up signing up to become a part of the community. If you can win the hearts of a handful of individuals with your words, they’ll be sure to stay and keep reading what you have to offer…your perspective; something no one else can put out into the world but you.

I would also argue that in a time where a lot of “bad” content exists, it is your responsibility to put out “good” content. And the more “good” content we put out there into the internet, we are doing our part to help the next generation stumble onto the good stuff. We need to saturate the internet with more good, than bad.

Before I conclude this thought, I also want to make sure to point out the not so great side of starting a blog because there will surely be days you feel like no one is reading your stuff; “…sometimes it feels like the world doesn’t want what you have to offer. You feel like no one cares what you write, so what’s the point?”

Again, going back to Meghan’s article:

“But what I have also learned, with resounding hope, is that my writing does make a difference. Every once in a while, in between the blog posts with no comments or shares, I get an email from one of my readers telling me that I inspired them; that because of something I had written they did something bold, adventurous, and good. I’ve had readers get involved in the fight against sex-trafficking, readers reconcile lost relationships. Shoot, I’ve even had readers pack up their bags and move to foreign countries to help the poor.”

PH SPOT is no different. Some days I wonder whether the work I put in to find writers, edit and publish blogs, and keeping up this site is really making a difference. And of course, as Meghan stated in her blog, once in a while, I will receive a beautiful email from a reader who takes the time to write about how much PH SPOT has helped them through school or during their job search. This gives me the reason to keep going, to keep trying to find more great content to share!

So, think about. Why are you here, what are you passionate about, and are you ready to change the world with your voice?

Continue reading blogs from this series…

Start a public health blog (part 2): Investing in knowledge and the power of network
Passion is great, but what else can I really get out of starting my own blog? What’s in it for me?

Start a public health blog (part 3): Choosing a topic to blog about
I’m convinced and ready to share my passion with the world!

Start a public health blog (Part 4): Setting up your platform
I’m no tech wiz, so tell me exactly what I need to do


About the author:

Sujani Sivanantharajah is an Opioid Public Health Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), placed at Manitoba Health. Previous to this role, she was an Epidemiologist working on foodborne and zoonotic illness outbreaks. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Biology and Health Studies, and then went on to complete a Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Saskatchewan. After guiding a number of students and new grads over the past 7 years, Sujani created www.PHSPOT.ca to reach and inspire a larger number of emerging public health professionals in the country to build their career.

2018-04-04T23:13:24+00:00April 5th, 2018|Inspiration, Resource, Start a blog|0 Comments
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