Twitter’s potential role in the delivery of health messages

14 November 2014
An HIV ribbon

Advertisers have already discovered it and are using it intensely. The question is, why are public healthcare providers not? Social media is an increasingly important form of communication, so why are healthcare providers not using this medium to get their messages across? A recent study shows how social media can inform the public about health.

In this study, tweets sent in response to the UNAID’s campaign ‘Protect the Goal’ during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, were analysed. Researchers not only looked at what messages were communicated in the tweets, but they also compared the HIV topics that trended on Twitter and the increase in extra healthcare services provided during the World Cup (e.g. mobile testing stations and free condoms), as well as the number of tweets. It was found that most tweets expressed discriminatory attitudes towards HIV and AIDS. Only a couple tweets were about prevention and there were even fewer about HIV testing.

Analysis of the study is not finished yet, however, these preliminary results show the potential of social media to disseminate healthcare messages and get people to act on them. Indeed, real-time, follow-up, information on healthcare services and healthcare information could be at vital tool for users. Today, 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV and many of them experience some form of stigma or discrimination. Social media has the potential to reduce this.

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