Health Communication Strategies in Public Health and Utilizing Social Media

Health Communication Strategies in Public Health: Utilizing Social Media


Effective communication is one of the critical components of any organizational systems. It helps in delivering the goals and objectives of the firm and ensures the vision of the firm is achieved. This has also been the same mechanism used in healthcare systems. Health communication refers to the process of promoting health reaching various population groups to exchange information that will influence, empower and support all healthcare stakeholders (Schiavo, 2013). It helps the public to understand and comprehend the best way for better living. Health communication can be done through campaigns, publishing of educational materials and media. These can be done through verbal, written, listening, visual and non-verbal cues. The health personnel involved in this should understand its audience and find out the best way to communicate effectively to promote health. Many of the public health organizations have incorporated social media in their system, and this has promoted its goal of enhancing healthcare systems. Some of these organizations include; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and American Public health Association (APHA). According to Pew Research Center (2018) reports that out of 74% of internet users, 80% of them usually look for health information and search for specific doctors (Anderson & Rainie, 2018). Therefore, social media can be used to promote healthy strategies to the public. This paper aims to discuss how it can be used in increasing of perceiving risks among individuals in the health system, how it can reinforce positive, healthy behaviors, and increase the availability of support and healthy services. Besides, it will also explain how it can influence social norms and empower individuals to change or find suitable ways for better health conditions.


Social media is a collection of many digital channels and tools that allows interactions among a broad virtual audience which exchanges and transfers information. These channels can be categorized into social networks, media sharing, review sites and community blogs. Most of these platforms facilitate engagement of its clients at the same time but in different places. Its characteristic of functional ability has motivated public health organizations to move from simple information sharing to mass sharing. Most users of social media are individuals who are coping up with chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes. According to the Pan African Medical Journal (2014), 90% of online users trust medical health information in online platforms (Tchuitcheu et al., 2020). Mediabistro did a survey also supports the effectiveness of using social media for health communication by reporting that 50% of respondents in social platforms regularly read on the management of prevention of diseases. And 40% of the people who read this information are likely to change their decisions after the online consultation (Ahmed et al., 2017). A research conducted by Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing (WHPRM) society also reports that beyond 1500 hospitals have created an online presence, and Facebook has been the most popular one (Jha et al., 2016). Therefore, these studies supplement my research in promoting healthcare communication through social media platforms, but more especially on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Increase Risk Perception

Most of the diseases are related to the environmental risks within the surrounding people live. Social media can be used to intensify the risks associated with a polluted environment and advising individuals on how to live a healthy environment. Some of the chronic diseases that are becoming a threat today in many nations and even in America can use these platforms to sensitize on the need to curb with them. A research conducted by the CDC, (2018), shows that in 100 Americans, 14 of them are smokers. This brings a total of 34.2Mpeople smoking, where 16million are related to disease (Jamal et al., 2016). The public health system can use Facebook in sensitizing on the effects of smoking through images and visual aids. Through microblogs on Twitter, young people can engage in conversations that can sensitize the effects of smoking. YouTube channels are also an excellent source to stimulate those involved in smoking behaviours and substance use in transforming a good trait in coping up with the trait. This can be done through educational videos and even sharing of the personal story of people who have once struggled but have managed to survived.  Discussions against these traits and also engaging the government and their decisions in legalizing or not legalizing the most abused drugs will surely promote healthy behaviors and ways to cope up with substance abuse.

Another main risk for many chronic diseases is obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and overweight have been reported the second leading cause of deaths in the USA. Approximately 300,000 individuals die due to obesity-related diseases annually. The CDC (2018) also reports that 25.7% of deaths are caused by obesity-associated conditions (Jamal et al., 2016). Therefore, this is a significant area that should be keenly considered in healthcare promotion. However, research also shows that social media has significantly influenced poor eating habits that have led to obesity, the same media can be used to sensitize the risk of excess weight and promote healthy eating habits and exercises (Kent et al., 2016). For instance, programs such as “know your weight” on Facebook can help create awareness of the importance of knowing your weight and BMI. Appropriate eating habits and sensitizing on exercises are also a remedy to overcome this scandal. Preparing healthy recipes on YouTube can also be a helpful strategy in ensuring people take healthy diets. The programs can also sensitize against sedentary lives and create a good impression on healthy lives.

Increased availability for medical and health-related services

Social media has been a useful tool for many healthcare professionals benefitting the virtual audience. MedTech Media has indicated that 31% of healthcare personnel use social media for networking in healthcare issues. Some of the most researched blogs and medical sources include WebMD (56%), Wikipedia (31%) health magazines and newsletters (29%), Facebook (17%), YouTube (15%) multiple blogs (13%), patient communities (12%), Twitter (65) while 27% do not use any sources. (Stones & Smith, 2018). Many hospitals that have access to social media prefer to use Facebook than other media platforms. Therefore, many people are reached with beneficial information that supports their health.

It has also been used by medical personnel and other public officers in enhancing the healthcare systems. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been used in the sharing of information among healthcare staff. This information can include updates of new technologies in the medical field, that can benefit society. For instance, in this era of the World pandemic of Novel Covid-19, medical personnel share information concerning the management and control of this disease in media platforms to the society. They also share any drug or medication that have worked out in any case-control studies they have carried out. These systems have also introduced new doctors to the platform and have been able to answer according to their knowledge and research of the pandemic. Through these platforms, the doctors and health practitioners have also been able to teach the public on safety measures of the Covid-19 through live procedures in YouTube, such as how to wash hands and wear face masks. This communication has been effective and efficient in this time of crisis.

Influence social norms

Social norms in healthcare are referred to rules or instructions that specific people use to determine values, attitudes, and behaviors. The main purpose of social norms is to change the clinical behavior of a certain community by exposing them to values, beliefs and attitudes of a reference group. They can also be used to correct a certain behavior within a particular community. For instance, social media campaigns have been used and are still used to fight against the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that is still happening in some communities. Despite the cultural and sociological contexts of a society, the health systems are against FGM. This is because; FGM can cause severe pain that can lead to death, cause genital swelling, cause infections and even increase the risk of HIV (Pabalkar et al., 2016). It is a form of discrimination among women that has no health benefits. Therefore, the public health system should fight against this to reduce the practice among communities and social stigma by those who have undergone the trauma. This is through educating girls and women on YouTube videos and channels. Health educational material also uploaded in media can help promote communication among this group. The Facebook pages can also be used in campaigning over such acts by the #tag. This creates awareness and makes people realize to say no. some other social practices that can be handled in media platforms include; how to heal from drug addiction, promoting child health through ANC visits and even Family Planning strategies to reduce risky pregnancies among the society, especially in impoverished households.

Empower individuals to change or improve their health conditions.

Social media platforms have been used to empower or educate patients on various diseases and healthy living styles. This can lead to the reduction of chronic diseases related to diet because of the diet program that is run in the YouTube videos and Facebook pages of active subscribers. Social campaigns have also been an effective tool to promote public health. A social campaign carried in Northern Louisiana on diabetes prevention showed significant results in preventing diabetes and education the people on living healthy (Hatch et al., 2019). This project used media outlets to mobilize to people concerning the need to be screened and treated for diabetes. the project aimed in promoting public health by slowing the progression of diabetes at the risk areas of Northern Louisiana. It resulted in significant results that showed a decrease in blood sugar levels for the participants.


Communication is a key process in promoting public health. It is through communication that people are educated, informed and decide on what course to take, especially when faced by a health crisis. public health can use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to increase the sensitization of risky behaviors that increase diseases. Through this sensitization, the public can learn of positive behaviors that promote healthy living. It can also use these platforms to influence social norms that enhance hygiene, morals and adequate health systems among people. The media platforms can also promote the availability of medical and health-related services that can be used to empower individuals to change or improve their conditions. However, social media can be challenging in keeping privacy and ensuring security among its participants. Misinformation and misunderstanding can also cause adverse effects (Swire-Thompson & Lazer, 2019). Some have also adopted bad lifestyles that are becoming a threat to their health systems through social media.


Schiavo, R. (2013). Health communication: From theory to practice (Vol. 217). John Wiley & Sons.

Jha, A., Lin, L., & Savoia, E. (2016). The use of social media by state health departments in the US: analyzing health communication through Facebook. Journal of community health41(1), 174-179.

Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2018). The future of well-being in a tech-saturated world. Pew Research Center.

Tchuitcheu, G. K., Mostert, N., Ndlovu, K., Oluoch, T., Vroom, F. D. C., Wanyee, S., … & Wright, G. (2020). Pan African Health Informatics Association (HELINA). Yearbook of Medical Informatics.

Ahmed, S. M., Alruways, F. A., Alsallum, T. F., Almutairi, M. M., Al-Subhi, A. S., & Ababdulkarim, A. A. (2017). Opinion of healthcare professionals in the usage of social media for patient care in Majmaah, Saudi Arabia. Int J Public Health Sci6(1), 13-20.

Pabalkar, V., Chanda, R., Tayal, P., & Singh, R. (2019). Impact of Social Media Advertising on Consumer’s Health. Indian Journal of Public Health Research & Development10(11).wpbrm..

Jamal, A., Phillips, E., Gentzke, A. S., Homa, D. M., Babb, S. D., King, B. A., & Neff, L. J. (2018). Current cigarette smoking among adults—United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report67(2), 53.cdc

Kent, E. E., Prestin, A., Gaysynsky, A., Galica, K., Rinker, R., Graff, K., & Chou, W. Y. S. (2016). “Obesity is the new major cause of cancer”: connections between obesity and cancer on Facebook and Twitter. Journal of Cancer Education31(3), 453-459.

Stones, S. R., & Smith, J. (2018). Social media supremacy: a force of change paving the way for the next generation of healthcare and research.

Bond, C. S., Merolli, M., & Ahmed, O. H. (2016). Patient empowerment through social media. In Participatory health through social media (pp. 10-26). Academic Press.

Swire-Thompson, B., & Lazer, D. (2019). Public Health and Online Misinformation: Challenges and Recommendations. Annual Review of Public Health41.

Hatch, A. R., Sternlieb, S., & Gordon, J. (2019). Sugar ecologies: their metabolic and racial effects. Food, Culture & Society22(5), 595-607.

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