Friday, July 17, 2009

How can social media improve public health?

If I were back in school getting my MPH, I think I'd do my thesis on the topic of how social media can improve public health. I admit that I'm an early adopter and I love technology. As I see how consumers are embracing various social media outlets, I see a tremendous potential to improve public health through these different channels. The combination of health IT plus social media may revolutionize the world of healthcare if we recognize the potential and map out an appropriate strategy that utilizes all the major resources.

For instance, we know that consumers love to read blogs. Certain healthcare professionals also like to follow blogs. Blogs can be used to deliver key public health messages to the public.

In addition to blogs, we have tools like Twitter. Many bloggers use Twitter as a broadcast medium and I often wonder if Twitter will evolve and eventually replace traditional RSS feeds. Tweets that get retweeted can spread like a virus and circle around the planet faster than a viral email campaign. Did you know that the FDA, CDC, NIH, HHS, and WHO all have Twitter accounts?

Finally, we have social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and others. These social networking sites can be powerfully leveraged to communicate important public health messages.

So, whether you're talking about a swine flu pandemic alert, an FDA drug recall, a food alert, a drug safety alert, or any other type of public health alert, the use of social media combined with health IT resources will be an effective way to improve public health if the right people jump onboard and plan things appropriately.

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