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Effectiveness of Use of Social Media

Preliminary data from the field suggests that social media is becoming a powerful addition to the health communicators’ toolkit. Although there is a great deal of interest in using social media as a tool for public health communications, the research evaluating its utility is still in its infancy. As of yet, few research studies have examined the broader utility of social media for the adoption of health promoting and protective behaviours. One of the chief conclusions of this report is that there is a paucity of peer-reviewed studies testing the utility of social media interventions for desired outcomes. Instead, research has focused on documenting the range of health-related behaviours and the content of health-related discourse on these platforms. Observational studies show an abundance of both informal health conversations related to public health issues and organized health-related activities on leading social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. The quality of health information available to users on these platforms is highly variable raising some concerns that social media users are exposed to unopposed viewpoints that counter core public health recommendations and contemporary medical science, such as those opposing immunization and promoting smoking.

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