Can Social Media Change Health Behavior?

I recently shared on Facebook, this article by Brandon Cohen, A Wiser Way to Use Facebook. In it, Brandon asks –

Are social media outlets (such as Facebook) useful places to educate the public about health? Or is this counterproductive to the goal of a transparent, well-informed, public discourse on issues of treatment and prevention?

A friend pointed out that this is a good topic for discussion. Thus, I’ve decided to write it up as a pre-chat blog post for the #HealthXPH tweet chat on February 25, 9 pm Manila time.

I’ve also had the privilege of giving two symposium presentations at the 2017 joint annual convention of the Philippine Society of Hypertension & the Philippine Lipid Atherosclerosis Society related to the topic at hand.

After the first presentation, a senior physician approached me. He was bothered about my thoughts on the use of social media for public health. He asked me how many hours I spend on blogging and posting as Endocrine Witch. He was worried that his patients will now begin to expect more contact with him on social media, when he doesn’t even give out his cellphone number. Shouldn’t all the discussion be done at the clinic during the consult? When I go home, I want to concentrate on my family and not have to talk anymore with my patients, he said. He also wasn’t convinced about doing research on patient-generated data on social media. [I was trying to convince some trainees to do research in this area.] He said, I don’t think our conclusions about health behavior will differ much even if we look at what patients say online.

I was talking with another senior physician who had asked me what my second presentation would be about. When I said it would be about the issue of harm and online health information, she said you have to put that in all caps, HARM. Another colleague had commented on the Facebook post where I shared Cohen’s article. He said, “Just a word of caution: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Lay people might extrapolate wrongly.”

So evidently, there are varying opinions. Let’s discuss this at the #HealthXPH tweet chat. See you!
T1 Is social media a useful platform to educate the public about health?
T2 What are the limitations of using social media for healthcare communication?
T3 Suggest a topic for research on the use of social media to change health behavior.