Genomics Forum Blog

Friday, August 28, 2009

Social Media as a Public Health Tool

I recently attended the Third Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media. As a professional communicator, I was eager to hear the presentations in the conference, especially given this year’s tagline: participation powers prevention. Although I gained deep insight into the kind of health communication research and projects taking place around the country, I was most struck by the integration of new media strategies in the overall conference program.

I’ll share just a few examples in this post. First, before attending the conference I received an invitation to join a Ning group created specifically for conference participants. Nedra Weinrich initiated the community at Events, blogs, tips, networking, and discussions started within this online community before the conference and have been continuing in the days after the meeting. Second, conference participants used Twitter hashtags to aggregate live, conference-related tweets. The tweet archive including 500 tweets from the meeting is available at

The outcome of these social media tactics (which include much more than the two examples I gave above) created enhanced access, information sharing, networking, and creativity among people who were interested in the conference, regardless of their ability to attend in person. It is a case study for how interdisciplinary dialogue on the issues we’re all facing in health can be facilitated through emerging technology.

But, it also points to the possibilities for using emerging technology in public health and genomics. CDC’s use of social media in response to H1N1 Flu is a case for continued exploration into social media’s application to public health. Check out for more information on how CDC is using social media in public health.

If you’re interested in integrating some of social media strategies into your professional toolbox, take a look at to learn more. Their how to section may be a good starting point for beginning your research.

-Tiphané Turpin

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