Using social media in health

Dr Becky Freeman1

1 School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, Level 6 – The Hub, Charles Perkins Centre (D17), The University of Sydney, NSW 2006,


The influence of media on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours is an established field of health research and practice. There is a burgeoning field of research assessing how social media tools can also assist health practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in improving health. Internationally, health stakeholders are keenly experimenting with using social media as an information sharing, behaviour change and advocacy tool. The rise of new media, and its emphasis on consumer generated content presents several unique challenges, including: the sheer volume of content, the borderless nature of the Internet, and consumer willingness to engage with entities on social media that may be harmful to health. While there is a great deal of enthusiasm and interest in using social media for health communications, there is little understanding of the connection between increasing online engagement and tangible changes that benefit health. There is a scarcity of research examining the success of social media in influencing health promoting behaviours or policy action, however several case studies that illustrate its promising potential will be presented.

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