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Public Health & Use of Social Media and Health 2.0 Tools: the Case of Infectious Diseases

Public Health & Use of Social Media and Health 2.0 Tools: the Case of Infectious Diseases

Silber, D. (2010). Public Health & Use of Social Media and Health 2.0 Tools: the Case of Infectious Diseases. Medicine 2.0’10 (Maastricht, NL) Track: Business. Retrieved from:

Public health information and communication were traditionally limited to official campaigns generated by institutions. These campaigns were often unable to fully reach their intended audiences, for lack of funding and low experience with large-scale communication, but this was considered normal for the public sector.

The situation has changed with the demand for greater accountability by public institutions and the development of user-generated content platforms and tools that make it possible to raise awareness worldwide.

Given the popularity of these tools, it is very difficult to ensure that a specific message will get through, thus raising many new questions.

--What are the consequences of social media and 2.0 tools for public health authorities?
-How can they ensure that their voice will be heard?
--What is the role of the population?

In this talk, I will use two current examples to define key success factors for communication on public health issues through the use of web 2.0 platforms.

The examples are the H1N1 virus and the Global Fund's bornhivfree campaign.

Regarding the H1N1 virus, we will examine the differences in public opinion in the US and France in the winter of 2009, regarding vaccination. In France, the government vaccination campaign faced significant resistance, as the social media platforms were occupied by dissatisfied consumers. Government policymakers generally continued to invest their communication time in traditional media. In the US, public health authorities were present on social media platforms and engaging in dialogue with users.

Unfortunately, neither set of authorities was sufficiently able to construct its messages, either because the information was evolving too quickly, or because they did not see themselves sufficiently as communicators..

The global bornhivfree campaign was launched in Paris on May 19th 2010. The campaign will reach its conclusion in New York at the UN on Oct 5 2010. This campaign involves the sélection of a « successful message », preventing the contamination of babies, and use of the largest user-generated-content platforms on the web as well as contact with bloggers, artists, and others... While it is too soon to draw conclusions, the campaign seems to be off to a positive start , very organized, and staying on target for the messages.

We will be following the results of these two situations up to the date of the conference and reporting on results and key success factors.

Public health policy must henceforth take into account the power of user-generated content platforms and 2.0 tools. These two fast-moving infectious diseases, H1N1 and HIV are ideal natural laboratories for our examination.