Using Social Media to Extend the Reach of Local Public Health Departments

Jul 17, 2013, 11:43 AM

CDC SocialMediaWorks

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s social media tool kit, CDCHealthCommWorks, was the focus of a standing room only session on the last day of annual meeting of the National Association of County and City Heath Officials (NACCHO). HealthCommWorks was developed through collaboration between the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Matthew Schnupp, MSPH, RN, a health education specialist at Oak Ridge, took the session attendees through SocialMediaWorks, one of the tools on the CDC site, to help optimize its use. The tool uses an algorithm to analyze which social media tools fit a particular campaign or public health issue based on time available to communicate messages, resources, population and goals.

“Social media plays a vital role in public health and is a strong tool for advocacy, communication, and education,” said Alisa Blum director of media and public relations at NACCHO. “Many local health departments use social media creatively to engage their communities and it has proven to be an important resource for public health preparedness and local health department response to disease outbreaks, emergencies, and other disasters.”

NACCHO also recently shared examples of successful public health social media campaigns:

  • The Kansas City health department uses Twitter and Facebook to push information on extreme heat safety during the summertime. The messages and reports of suspected or confirmed heat-related deaths resulted in coverage of health department activities and partnerships on national news channels including the Weather Channel and CNN.
  • The Boston Health Commission used social media to promote its Youth Media campaign on sugary beverages. The campaign received close to 30,000 views, and close to 23,000 clicks on their Facebook ads.
  • In Contra Costa, California, a recent campaign included a podcast by the public health director that was promoted on Twitter and Facebook. Parts of the podcast were picked up by local radio, which allowed the department to most accurately gets their message across.

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth post on how social media can speed recovery after a disaster.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.