The Power of Prevention & Promotion

orecia    July 12, 2016

His head thrashes side to side at night for hours on end while he hums loudly. Not knowing if this is normal three year old dreaming behaviour, night terrors, or signs of something more serious, his parents take to the internet to find out what they should be doing about it. You Tube specifically.  It didn’t take them long to decide to book a doctors appointment.  A year later he has a diagnosis of Epilepsy and his symptoms are being managed to reduce long term effects. This is a great example of how social media is currently playing a role in preventative health care and alerts us to the potential expansion in this area.

In  2011, Ottawa Public Health launched a successful STI testing campaign called “Get Tested. Why Not?” This included on-line questions and answers for patients to test their risk level, provide knowledge and even a test requisition downloadable and printable at the end to get tested.  Taking this a step further could involve cell phone apps that direct patients to the nearest lab that can provide testing, send requisitions electronically and even communicate results and next steps for future prevention counselling. Another interesting application here could be the use of interactive maps that plot out current local STI rates, fluctuations and successes/challenging areas of prevention programs.

Immunization is another area where interactive maps and information about immunization clinic locations could provide extra incentive and increase immunization rates. In March of 2014, the ImmunizeCA mobile app was created to help Canadians manage their immunization records.  One challenge of this is that it is not linked to overall electronic medical records and does not automatically sync to patient medical files.  This would be the next step as well a incorporating how patients communicate and receive messaging into these records as many patients now do not have land lines or live calling plans.  Many younger patients are way more likely to check for Facebook messages and updates before voice mails and e-mails.  Applying social media to world-wide tracking of disease and prevention has infinite possibilities. Tracking symptom searches, travel patterns and immunization rates has the potential power to stop outbreaks before they cross borders and on a smaller scale as well.

A fascinating use of social media in prevention was during the Japanese tsunami and radiation emergency in 2011. the World Health Organization learned via social media that some people were hoarding and drinking iodine based wound cleaner because they thought it would prevent radiation poisoning. WHO posted info on Twitter and Facebook warning of the harm that this could cause with no positive effect. Evidence that this social media messaging worked was that stores saw a large increase in the number of returns of wound cleaning solution. This kind of internet based surveillance and quick response to educate and build awareness will be crucial for health promotion and disease prevention. Expansion in this area involves increasing communication and integration of data systems from within the smallest organizations and communities to as large as on a global scale.

Lessons for Others

In terms of applying social media to the epilepsy patient above, he is now being monitored by a SAMi system where they can track and send actual footage of his night time seizure activity to the medical team. His parents would like to see more research and medically based internet social media sites where they can interact directly with reputable health care providers and communicate via video in the moment when support and information is needed the most.  The ease and speed of information collection and dissemination makes social media critical in all areas of future health promotion and disease prevention strategies.

Organization: Public Health
Industry: Health Care
Name of Organization Contact: Health care consumer contact

Authored by: orecia

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