Twitter and #publichealth


As an information network Twitter is a tool that can be used to increase health literacy. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Title V, defines health literacy as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

Why is health literacy important?

Research indicates that nearly “9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using the everyday health information that is routinely available in health care facilities, retail outlets, media, and communities.Limited health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs.”


Twitter information network allows health organizations to provide health education via their tweets. Here is an example of a recent tweet posted by Harvard School of Public Health. 

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UC Berkeley School of Public Health also provides health education that is easy to understand. Here is a recent tweet.

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What do the hashtags mean?

Hashtags allow Twitterers to discuss issues and mark and organizes posts. On Twitter, hashtags appear in the “Trending” section, and people interested in sharing their thoughts can use them to reach out to others. If used strategically and with authenticity hashtags can help organizations increase their number of followers and the tweet re-posts.  Following the hashtag etiquette, less is more, as explained in the book Social Media for Social Good, can avoid being perceived as a hashtag spammer. When using hashtags, it is important to use no more than a single hashtag per post on average. While it is sometimes appropriate to use two hashtags, using three or more is rarely wise. Follow this link for a beginners guide on using hashtags.

Web-based platforms such as Symplur provides hashtag information around the topic of health care. Below is the report they offer for public health hashtags Tweet activity.

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6 thoughts on “Twitter and #publichealth

  1. I really enjoyed your post!! I thought you put together the media well and the pictures really added a lot without being overwhelming. The design was great as well which I had trouble with after adding pictures. The incorporation of the text with the hashtag was a great connection and I liked the different hashtags and public health tweeting activity. Great!! I would enjoy hearing more of what you have to say on this topic and what you have learned from these pages!

    • Hi Melissa,
      Thank you for your comment. These pages have been very helpful as they explain health information in a clear and simple way. Presenting health information that is short with writing and explained along with images makes it more appealing and is more effective as patients tend to read it completely vs health education that is long with no images and with big medical words that are not appropriate to their education level.

  2. Your post was clear, informative and easy to read and focused really well on the public health angle. Improving health litracy is a good application of this social media. I like the Twitter examples that you chose and the images were clear and supported the content of the post. The hashtag section was really informative and your use of the hyperlinks was very helpful. The length of your paragraphs were easy to read too.
    Overall another good post Maria!

  3. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for your post on health literacy! I actually forwarded your post to my team, since a team member of ours is working on a research project accessing diabetic patients’ health literacy and numeracy and how they might impact diabetes management outcomes. What a great timing!

    I especially like the link you included for beginners, like me, so that we can slowly get used to the culture of microblogging.

    As far as the post goes, good structure!
    – Started from a big idea and slowly progressed to specific examples.
    – Good use of examples from Harvard and Berkeley.
    – Inclusion of readings from this past week.


    • Hi Clipper, I am glad my post was helpful and that you shared with your team member. Health literacy is very important especially in diabetic patients that need to learn a lot of health information especially those that have been just diagnosed. I find that parents of Type 1 diabetic children who have been recently diagnosed have a challenge of learning a lot of information as soon as possible in order to help their child control and manage blood sugar levels. This can be even more difficult if they are non-English speakers who don’t have much resources available to them in their language.

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