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How to effectively use social media tools to reach your health goals

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access


Social media provides a dynamic and engaging way to access information about healthcare issues that matter most to you. A number of social media tools encourage participation, conversation and community – all of which can help you reach your health goals.

Here are some suggestions on how to effectively use social media for healthier living:

  • Use Facebook to connect with groups educating about health and chronic diseases. Social networking sites like Facebook are used by millions of people every day to interact and engage with other users, to share content and to learn about health-related information. These sites can help you learn about all aspects of your healthcare, from prevention, through symptoms and diagnosis, treatment options and disease management. For example, the American Diabetes Association has a Facebook page that posts timely and useful information about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. You can interact with others who are living with diabetes, take a test to determine your risk factors, and find helpful resources and local event listings, such as expos and walks.
  • Find information about a specific disease or health topic on Twitter. Twitter is quickly becoming an important tool for connecting people interested in specific health information. For example, if you want to learn more about keeping your heart healthy, search Twitter with a hashtag (i.e. #heart health and #heartdisease) and you can find the latest news and commentary on this topic in real-time. You might find healthcare experts or groups to follow that post regular news about heart health. Twitter also provides opportunities to listen to conversations and engage with others interested in the same topic. Information is typically limited to the past two weeks of public tweets.
  • Download applications that can keep you on track. Thousands of apps for mobile phones help people manage their health, diet and exercise. Examples of applications that would be useful for reaching a health goal include calorie and exercise trackers, Body Mass Index calculators, prescription refill reminders, and healthy dining options. Some are even designed to help you monitor your blood pressure, weight, and heart rate.
  • Search YouTube for healthy how-to or informational videos. YouTube brings a visual component to learning about a topic and has thousands of clips from health experts. For example, if you plan to get in shape to run a 5K or even a longer distance, you can find videos that show proper training techniques. Also, many health organizations have their own YouTube channels such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official YouTube channel, CDC Streaming Health, which contains CDC-produced videos on a variety of health topics.
  • Join online community forums that encourage sharing of experiences. Sharing experiences and challenges with others can help when you need extra motivation. By participating in forum message boards, you can communicate with others who have the same goals and share your learnings. These forums can provide the support you might need to achieve your goal!
  • Use mobile health tools like text messages to help you stay on top of a health issue. The use of text messaging as a tool to deliver health information and help people improve their health is growing. Recent research, as reported by the CDC, has shown that interventions delivered by text messages can positively impact short-term behavior. An example of a text messaging campaign by the CDC allows subscribers to get tips on how to improve their health: http://www.cdc.gov/mobile/textmessaging.
  • Check out virtual online health coaching sites. These interactive sites help consumers who want to take charge of their health but need help with setting, tracking and reaching personal health goals. One example is www.HealthCoach4Me.com, which combines interactive coaching tools with educational resources to encourage users to achieve their goals using small, manageable steps.
   Bottom line is -- using even a few of these social media tools can help you get even closer to making your health goals a reality!

   Source:
http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ToolsTemplates/SocialMediaToolkit_BM.pdf?s_cid=tw_eh_135