What is Steampunk?
If you do not count sci-fi geeks and cosplay fans among your very best friends, you may not know about this literary/fashion sub-genre. The steampunk aesthetic arouse from science fiction novels of the late1980’s to early 1990’s. A hallmark of the form is an intermixing of Victorian era technology with a futuristic world. In the world of steampunk, giant floating airships replace airplanes and robots powered by steam can be wound up like clocks. That explains the steam part of the moniker. But along with the futuristic Victorian technology, there is grimy coal-stack poverty within the form. In steam punk fashion, the make do, miss-match dichotomy of distressed smart phones with clock work gears gives one a sense of unease. There is something really wrong with the picture when antiquated forms are indiscriminately matched with modern technology, hence the term is steampunk.
What is Steampunk Health?
Well, that is the title of Ben Merrion’s Walking Gallery Jacket and anyone who looks around the world of health today will see futuristic technology surrounded by anachronistic systems of old-fashioned medicine. Ben Merrion is the Literacy Outreach Specialist for DC Public Library. He has extensive experience as a teacher of adult learners and very involved in social justice in DC. He is even one of the artist members of The Walking gallery having painted the sumi-e style “Holistic Medicine” for Christian Liu.
But this is Ben’s jacket and he wanted to focus on adult literacy and steampunk Daleks. Now some of you might wonder what health advocacy has in common with adult literacy or steampunk Daleks. Well as e-Patient Dave de Bronkart recently tweeted, I am good at pointing out connections and will show you the way.
In this painting, Ben Merrion is dressed in a steampunk fashion. He wears glasses that are affixed with mechanical trifocals. With a concerned countenance, he holds out his hand containing a jar of prescription medicine. The label can be clearly read… if you can read. It states: “1 in 5 District residents can’t read this.” That is a pretty powerful statistic if you apply it to health literacy. How can a patient be medically complaint, if they cannot read their care instructions or warnings about possible side-effects?
Behind Ben, a line of steampunk Cybermen stretch into the distance. Above these cyber figures is the statement: “Uncooperative patients will be assimilated.” If you know your Doctor Who you are very familiar with these cyborgs that vanquish all human emotion and replace it with cold hard logic. If you look closely you will see that upon each cyberman breast plate a there is a FICO logo next to a small capsule. This image harkens back to an epatient.net blog and discussion from the summer.
In June Alex Albin’s post “FICO’s new Med Compliance Score: #FAIL” was cross posted on epatient.net. The blog post explained FICO’s decision to track patient medical adherence via third party data sources. FICO was planning to use a combination of retail purchase history, geo-credit profiles and income wealth indicators to compile a data base that could be used as a tool to judge patients. With this tool providers and pharmaceutical companies could easily tell which patients were prone toward non-compliance.
Yes, the tool could tell you who might be non-compliant and give providers the data needed to guarantee a pool of adherent, assimilated patients. But it could not tell you why they were not taking their medication.
Toward the lower half of the painting is a steampunk Dalek. Dalek’s are also cyborgs and are an arch-nemesis from Doctor Who. They have had every emotion removed except hate. Their pepper-pot form and catch phrase, “Seek, Locate, Exterminate!” permeates pop-culture. The traditional catch phrase has been replaced in this painting by: “Seek, Locate, Medicate” and alludes to a statistic from May 2011 in the Wall Street Journal. 1 in 4 children are on chronic prescription medication in the
. United States
So, let me clue you into a few things. The number one blogging key word search term for patients is uncooperative. If you attend medical conferences you will repeatedly hear we are non-compliant. If you listen to specialist like Ben, a large portion of the adult population in this city cannot read at all, let alone complex instructions. And if one in four children is prescribed chronic medication, we aren’t dealing with a compliance problem; we are facing a massive level of over-medication.
So, I think Ben has one of the most appropriate jackets in the Gallery. I really hope he wears it everywhere; for I am steamed about these statistics. And as far as a punk is concerned, I know from years of selling fireworks what a punk is for.
Punks light fires.