Social Media

Chat 126: Can Social Media Be Used to Influence Healthy Behaviours and Track Diseases?

3 Mins read

By Fanny Gillet and edited by Colleen Young

Nicole Ghanie-Opondo

Nicole Ghanie-Opondo

By Fanny Gillet and edited by Colleen Young

Nicole Ghanie-Opondo

Nicole Ghanie-Opondo

On Wednesday May 1st, Nicole Ghanie-Opondo (@todayisbanana) moderated our tweetchat and asked the community how social media can serve behaviour change messages and help track diseases. As an introduction to the discussion she wrote an article in her blog – Behaviour Change, Disease Tracking & Social Media?

T1: People have tuned out of some behaviour messaging – can SM help?

Generally speaking, when it comes to behavior changes there is no miracle and most hcsmca-ers agreed that social media can’t be “the solution”. However, according to some chat participants, social media can provide useful peer support. By sharing real stories people may feel less alone and be influenced by the positive behaviour changes of others in their networks – “if you/they can do it, so can I”.

Social media can also be a good tool to provide a message with a different approach, a more personal language and to get feedback from the audience.

Hcsmca-ers also noticed that social media can have a negative impact simply because they can transmit the wrong message to an audience.Image

The opposite is also true because social media can be used to refute these wrong information through the sharing of studies for example.

The members debated about the length of the messages on social media and they notably said that short messages can be perceived as bossy. However, for others these messages are less pushy than longer ones.

Social media can also be used to find out why people tune out behaviour change messaging and thus be a tool to bring them on board.

T2: Should public health be using social media for disease tracking, beyond the flu?

Some hcsmca-ers are skeptical; they doubt about the accuracy of the data.

They notably questioned the meaning “likes” and “RTs” on social media – Do they reflect people’s thoughts? Do people always read what they like?

Members also added that even if the data are not perfectly representative, they can still give some information that shows useful patterns.

During the discussion, hcsmca-ers shared interesting links that I gathered here:

For more details about the chat, you can read the full transcript.

What type of media do you think is the most successful in positive and healthy behaviour change and why?

image: HCSM/shutterstock

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