Public health in social media can be the key in communicating important public health information to broad audiences. This includes Twitter, Facebook , Snapchat and Kardashian savvy youngsters. True prevention, the cornerstone of public health, starts in the younger generation. And why not use a communication channel these youngsters are already spending so much (all) of their time on? If public health professionals can effectively incorporate messages like safe sex, and anti-smoking campaigns into mainstream pop culture we may be able to reach a whole new generation, and start earlier with prevention based health campaigns.
The One Change Campaign wrote that, “Health department staff still go to health fairs and schools and talk to business and community leaders about making “one small change,” but by having online tools involved, more people are likely to both hear and talk about the message. It’s also a population where, if they like the message, they’re going to help you spread it. That’s been something really great, to see how it spreads virally.” Social media can be a powerful tool in spreading important media, messages and movements, and if the public picks on something and is drawn to it, they will spread that message faster than any other media. But, the question remains as to whether or not we are using social media in the most effective way possible as public health officials.
According to Pew Research Center, an organization that researches social media use, 81% of 18-29 year olds use Facebook, 53% use Instagram and 37%. Using all three media outlets as a way to deliver public health messages seems obvious and an enormous opportunity to reach the younger generation. But, many organizations, like county departments of public health, don’t reach this demographic.
Although public health officials have many made useful tools out of social media, from emergency preparedness to aggregation of data for predicting flu outbreaks, much of these advances seem to miss out on the opportunity to integrate youth participation in key preventative areas. How can we as a new generation of public health professionals change this?
Incorporation of public health into popular culture might be the answer. Kim K. is paid over $100,000 per tweet to name drop fashion and makeup brands she uses. What if we use her image and popularity to reach out to kids about the dangers of smoking cigarettes? Regardless of the strategy, as social media usage grows exponentially, we as public health officials should be aware of the opportunities that are being created to make public health as popular as the Kardashians.