Public health agencies can better leverage social media, study says

By Carol Flagg
12:56 PM
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BMC Public Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal with a mission to create greater understanding of public health issues. The journal puts particular focus on the “social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community.”

BMC recently released findings from their study, Adoption and Use of Social Media Among Public Health Departments. The study results suggest that while public health agencies are using social media, usage is creating minimal audience engagement and interaction.

The study looked at social media usage by state public health departments in three areas:

  1. The extent to which state public health departments (SHDs) are using social media.
  2. Which social media applications are used most often.
  3. How often social media is used interactively to engage audiences.
Findings from the study include:
  • 60 percent of SHDs reported using at least one social media application.
  • SHDs usage of social media included 87 percent using Twitter, 56 percent Facebook, and 43 percent a YouTube channel.
  • There was a significant difference between average population density and use of social media.
  • On average, SHDs made one post per day and this was primarily to distribute information.
  • There was very little interaction with audiences beyond posting of content.
  • SHDs have few followers or friends on their social media sites.
  • The most common topics for posts and tweets related to staying healthy and diseases and conditions.

The authors of the study conclude that while social media use by public health agencies is in the early adoption stage the reach is limited.

[See also: The political healthcare week that was on Twitter.]

“SHDs are using social media as a channel to distribute information rather than capitalizing on the interactivity available to create conversations and engage with the audience. If public health agencies are to effectively use social media then they must develop a strategic communication plan that incorporates best practices for expanding reach and fostering interactivity and engagement.”

This article originally appeared on HITECHAnswers.

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