As an individual who is interested in how social media can be a tool for reaching the masses to impact and engage around the health issues of today, coming across this blog by Jay Parkinson, CEO and co-founder of SHERPPA; caused me to reevaluate the role of social media in public health. Parkinson suggests social media , or in his words, the social web, is a way to fix our communication problems along with smoke signals, and unfortunately spread both NEW ideas AND drivel. He further states social media requires daily engagement and goes on to identify three target populations that make mixing social media and health impossible- FOR A BUSINESS. As the co-founder of a company which creates a real time command center to address an individual’s health needs and an individual who has been medically trained and has a Masters in Public Health, I would have guessed his stance would have been a tad bit different.
It was my false assumption that his training would lend him the insight that addressing just one health issue, like screening for prostate cancer, requires several packagings and adaptations to meet the needs of a diverse set of people. While the financial profiting from social media may be questionable, the presence of certain groups on Facebook and the re-tweets of health headlines are indicators that health messages are reaching the masses. Instagram pictures of someone’s healthy lunch as a symbol of a transition to a healthier way of living is impactful. Unfortunately, social media is still in its infancy and we cannot assess the long term effects it will have on our health. However, I do agree with Parkinson in that it provides a tool for better communication and for spreading ideas and information. Contrary to Parkinson, I’m focusing on the health impact- for some, I guess if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.
Image source: http://blogs.kqed.org/election2012/2012/11/05/state-watchdog-agency-accuses-arizona-group-of-money-laundering/