An Opportunity I Can’t Resist

PUBLISHED ON  May 23, 2019

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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  • Roni ZeigerRT : 7yo: you know what I love? Me: what? 7yo: that every pencil has an eraser attached. It’s like the world expects everyone to make mistakes. That’s pretty cool. ,
  • Roni ZeigerRT : Took care of a homeless gentleman who sleeps in a park near my house. He asked to get discharged before 10am. I asked him why. “Because I volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter and I have to be there by then.”,
  • Roni ZeigerNothing and everything to do w/ health, this gorgeous series of shorts about street dance, from Memphis jookin to Oakland turf dancing: ,
  • Roni ZeigerRT : On this Memorial Day, we honor the fallen...and that must include those who returned home only to die by suicide. We can and must do better to provide mental health services and support for our military men and women and their families.,

With both sadness and excitement, I am leaving the wonderful team and communities at Smart Patients. I’m proud of what we’ve built over the last 7 years and am confident the team will continue to do outstanding work. It’s been awesome to learn from the thousands of community members who support each other everyday with kindness and wisdom.

As for what’s next, I’ll be joining Facebook as their new Head of Health Strategy, doubling down on my commitment to peer support. I can’t resist the opportunity to help improve Health Support Groups and the quality of health information across Facebook.

Needless to say, there are tremendous challenges to address, as well as many opportunities for meaningful impact. I will tap into the power of community and collaboration to do my best, and look forward to collaborating with many of you along the way.

An ode to Mia Birdsong

PUBLISHED ON  November 24, 2017

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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One of the most remarkable people I met this year is Mia Birdsong. Her words gave me both precious clarity about the past and present, and compass and fuel toward a better future. For me, this is about better health care, starting at the source (the community). For you, I can only wonder:

“For every story I hear demonizing low-income single mothers or absentee fathers, which is how people might think of my parents, I’ve got 50 that tell a different story about the same people, showing up every day and doing their best. I’m not saying that some of the negative stories aren’t true, but those stories allow us to not really see who people really are, because they don’t paint a full picture. The quarter-truths and limited plot lines have us convinced that poor people are a problem that needs fixing. What if we recognized that what’s working is the people and what’s broken is our approach? What if we realized that the experts we are looking for, the experts we need to follow, are poor people themselves? What if, instead of imposing solutions, we just added fire to the already-burning flame that they have? Not directing — not even empowering — but just fueling their initiative.”

This quote is from her TED talk. Thank you, Mia, and everyone whose voice you are channeling.

We are all health workers

PUBLISHED ON  July 4, 2017

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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The phrase “we are all health workers” is meant to remind us that good health care requires not only clinicians, but also family caregivers, passionate app developers, and so many others. I’m convinced that the artificial distinction between the “official” health care we receive from professionals and the unofficial care we get from family and community is keeping us from building a more integrated care experience for our patients.

We are all health workers

This phrase is also on a sticker on Jane’s laptop above, as she teaches me about her work at Medic Mobile in their office in Nairobi, Kenya. I’m on their board and this has been my first time seeing first-hand how Community Health Workers use their apps to care for people in the most underserved areas of the world.

For the billion people who will never see a doctor, Community Health Workers (CHWs) bring basic prevention, diagnosis, and treatment door-to-door. While CHWs are mostly thought of as the next best thing to a “real” doctor, I’m beginning to understand they are much more.

In many communities, the CHW is chosen by community elders. She is respected and trusted by her peers as she brings knowledge, immunizations, and medicines from the medical experts who have delegated to her. CHWs are often unpaid volunteers who essentially do this work on weekends after trying to make ends meet during the week. During field work in Kenya this week, we got to ask many of them – some volunteers, some modestly paid – why they do this work. A big “aha” for me was seeing how much pride and meaning they derive from this service.

So we not only have value creation in terms of massively improved health outcomes, but also in a deeper sense of purpose for the CHW. In the U.S. and other developed countries, we typically don’t employ “intermediaries” like CHWs. Instead, we’re working hard to optimize the patient-physician interaction. I think poorer communities without that option can help us consider two big questions:

What is the role of the community member in delivering care within her community, in a way that complements and improves upon care provided by clinicians?

How much additional value can we create by allowing members of the community to care for one another, in terms of the meaning each of us derives from helping others?