Social Media for Public Health Professionals

Public Health professionals and entities are using social media as a tool to engage millions of people around the world concerning today’s most imperative health issues. Social networks such as Facebook, Google+ (G+) and Twitter have millions of people communicating about various topics. Health organizations are using such media tools to disseminate information. “One fact sheet or an emergency message about an outbreak can spread through Twitter faster than any influenza virus,” states an article by the World Health Organization (WHO). The article describes social media using the words “instant” and “borderless,” crediting the use of cell phone cameras and videos to an increase in the amount of content publishing done globally. The integration of social media and public health is proving to be highly beneficial.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s primary institution for public health research, awareness and preparation, has a whole division dedicated to social media. In August 2013, the social media division launched a visual campaign titled “Public Health Nerd.” Graphics include adorable and educational cartoon strips representing CDC’s efforts to raise awareness about the contributions of public health professionals. So far, four images have been posted to the FaceBook page, and eight images have been posted on the CDC Pinterest Board. Along with FaceBook and Pinterest, CDC’s social media division has multiple active Twitter accounts. Twitter users can type in the term “#PHnerd” on FaceBook and Twitter to join in on dialogue surrounding the campaign.

Apart from CDC’s Twitter account, @CDCgov, various divisions within CDC have their own accounts such as @CDCEmergency, @CDC_eHealth and @CDCflu. With more than 420,000 Twitter followers, CDC is excelling at raising awareness about important topics in public health. “The Health Communicator’s Toolkit,” a collaborative effort by various CDC electronic media and communications divisions, was developed to provide guidance to health organizations on how to integrate social media to meet objectives. The kit focuses on a range of topics such as blogs, video-sharing, mobile applications and Really Simply Syndication (RSS). The agency’s efforts have placed them at the forefront of appropriately developing and marketing web content.

Web content is published on a second-by-second basis. A high volume of web content continuously floods the internet. To improve efficiency, organizations can significantly benefit from using social media metric systems to track audience response. Social media metrics have proven to be essential in contributing to the success of meeting public health objectives. Metric systems such as Google Analytics, Lithium, HootSuite and Omniture are used to determine what topics most interest audiences. American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Linkedin group, which has more than 32,000 members, has been recognized for its cross channel evaluations. APHA integrated Bitly, a Web URL shortener, and Google Analytics to determine what content most interested new members. Applying such metric systems add value to an organization by saving individuals time from developing content that fails to interest their audience. An engaged global audience is the sharpest tool that can be used to officiate new and improved public health initiatives.

Priyanka Oza is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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