The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the power of social media in healthcare and its ability to quickly spread health information, and misinformation.
In an Oct. 19 article, the American Medical Association highlighted opportunities for social media to be used to support preventive health. The report is based on a Journal of American Medical Association viewpoint article from before the pandemic, written by Raina Merchant, MD, an assistant emergency medicine professor at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Four ways social media can support preventive health measures:
1. Call out misinformation on social media, which is especially important as it has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a growing presence of anti-vaccine proponents online, which can appear to legitimize conversations about vaccine harms.
2. Update and spread recommendations from sources such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which regularly updates guidelines for preventive services. When these changes occur, sharing them on social media can be helpful to reach a larger audience.
3. Connect with difficult-to-access populations, such as individuals without a primary care physician or those without insurance. Using social media to engage with these groups, who are particularly vulnerable to poor health outcomes, may help influence behavior change.
4. Promote public health initiatives by forging partnerships between researchers, health organizations and social media industry leaders to reach more people and engage with them about preventive health measures.
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