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Health & Safety Watch iOS App May Increase Parental Angst

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A new iOS app named HSW, short for “Health & Safety Watch”, has been released by Intelligent Health Solutions Inc. Canada, that promises to be a real-time health and safety information resource for iPhone (via Canada.com). HSW app provides personalized information on Canadian advisories, recalls, and warnings, giving Canadians the information they need to make safe and informed choices for themselves and their families. However, renowned sociologist Barry Glassner believes that instead of enabling education, the app could actually cause “needless anxiety and increasing confusion about risks“.

According to the source:

Dr. Jeff Aramini, president of HSW, hopes the app will have the opposite effect, allowing parents a greater sense of control. “The more we know and the more we feel confident that we’re on top of things, the less we have to worry”, says Aramini.

According to the Guelph, Ont.-based organization, more than 1,000 recalls and advisories are issued every year, adding up to a tremendous challenge for busy parents. The app not only curates these public notices by geographic location, it allows users to filter threats by category: consumer products, food and drug, public health, and environmental.

But in putting health-advisory triage into the hands of citizens, with each notice receiving equal space and prominence on the iPhone app, sociologist Frank Furedi wonders if people will feel overwhelmed. “When you get so many of these things together, each one trivializes the next until you don’t know what you really need to worry about”, says Furedi, author of Paranoid Parenting and alumni of McGill University in Montreal. “It almost works to create an industry of fear around parenting”.

Using lists, maps, search capabilities, ranking algorithms, and your location, the HSW application helps you find health and safety information on a variety of topics most important to you: Food Products, Consumer Products, Health Products, Public Health, Water, and Environment

The app can be downloaded for free via the Canadian App Store using the following link:

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  • chrisonhismac

    Why so negative? People want more transparency and easier access to info…but when they get it, the gov is accused of needless anxiety and increasing confusion about risks? 

    I guess that headline is sexier than “New app help spread useful information”

  • It and other apps are generally information overload for the general public (or for the newly smartphone initiate), most of us who are information junkies usually filter to some extent. By nature, we filter and categorize our environments, not always a good thing, but in general it helps us deal with multiple inputs. If we didn’t do that we would all have something similar to ADD. So, for people who aren’t use to increasing amounts of data, it can be stressful and overwhelming. But this all assumes people aren’t already use to it by having a smartphone in the first place. With out any real data, I think Furedi is generalizing based on his other research.

  • Jeff_Aramini

    Hi folks.  Just to clarify a few things.  I lead the team who developed and who are operating Health & Safety Watch (HSW).  HSW is NOT a government organization.  It is a non-government organization.  I started it up a few years ago after working for nearly a decade with Health Canada / Public Health Agency of Canada.  

    No government organization has the mandate to pull together multi-jurisdictional health and safety information. This is a simple reflection of how the responsibilities for health and safety are divided-up among the many departments, organizations, jurisdictions.  Understandable… they have enough to do.  As long as they make the information/data available… then we can leverage it.

    Our goal is simple…. health and safety information should be as simple to use/manage as weather information.  No matter where you live in Canada…or are travelling…. health and safety information should be simple and standardized.

    Leveraging technology to help prevent information overload is one of our primary goals.  We use location and various ranking algorithms to help users.  The next version of the app will enable users to sync-up with their online HSW account so that the ranking algorithm for the app will consider your personal preferences.  Example…. if you have a peanut allergy…you probably want food recalls associated with undeclared peanuts to rank higher. We have a number of other things we are working on as well.

    In addition…. it only takes a few seconds a day to stay abreast of health and safety events. For any given location in Canada… there are only a few at most each day.

    As for the so called “experts” worried that apps like ours will result in promoting fear…  these comments are not surprising.  I’ve heard this before from academics and from some government officials.  Personally… as a member of the public…. I find these statements rather condescending.  I guess these “experts” think that we (the members of the public) are too stupid to handle this kind of information.  I guess they would prefer the information be buried on hundreds of different websites across the country….some which are only available in PDF format (yup… we actually have to transcribe some of the information from PDF documents!).  

    I guess Drs. Glassner and Furedi ares OK with members of their families (mother, father, cousin, children, etc) missing the next E.coli-hamburger recall or next lead-in-toy related recall.  As for me…. I want my family and friends as well informed as possible. And  from the feedback we are getting…. so do most of you.

    Cheers, Dr. Jeff Aramini

    BE Safe…. BE Informed

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