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March 26, 2012

Is Public Health Ready to Embrace Social Media?

The Department of Health and Human Services has just launched a new contest for developers to create a Twitter app that tracks top-trending illnesses and automatically delivers that information to public health agencies. The practice of using social networking technology to gather public health data is one of the key information trends that I see impacting public health agencies over the next few years.

With social media providing the tools, public health has the opportunity to capitalize on the rich information being captured directly from health care consumers, providers and others. However, this approach requires a new way of thinking about data which may take some getting used to. For public health, it will mean less focus on managing the infrastructure that supports the data (storage and computing power) and more focus on what the data can tell us and how it can be used.

What do you think? Is public health ready to embrace this new model? Are you seeing it within your own agencies?

David A. Ross, ScD

President/CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, former director of PHII