Health Care the Social Media Way
Volumn 2

Health Care the Social Media Way

Muktai Chavan Deb#1, *2, Sujit Metre

#  Assistant Professor , Dr.Panjabrao Deshmukh Institute Of Management Technology & Research, Dhanwate National College, Congress Nagar , RTM Nagpur University, Nagpur, India.

* Professor, Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Management Studies & Research , RTM Nagpur University, Nagpur, India



Google Plus was established in the beginning of 2013 as the second largest social network in the world, having over 500 million users. As of September 2015, WhatsApp had a user base of up to 900 million, making it the most globally popular messaging application. Facebook had over 1.18 billion monthly active users as of August 2015. The reason of talking about these household names is to emphasize the vast reach it has; and how an individual can use these platforms for his/her own benefit or for the benefit of all. The research paper attempts to understand the use of social media for health promotion and to ascertain the various possibilities of using social media to spread awareness about health care and to promote positive health behaviour change.

Keywords— Health Care, Social Media, Health promotion.


Health care in India is one of the most neglected areas. Even though India boasts of having a good number of health care professionals, the present healthcare delivery system of India is in doldrums. Indian healthcare professionals have the advantage of working in a very biologically active region exposing them to treatment regimens of various kinds of conditions. The quality and amount of experience is arguably unmatched in most other countries. Despite limited access to high end diagnostic tools in rural areas, healthcare professions rely on extensive experience in rural areas. However non-availability of diagnostic tools and increasing reluctance of qualified and experienced healthcare professionals to practice in rural, under-equipped and financially less lucrative rural areas is becoming a big challenge. [1] The Constitution of India makes health in India the responsibility of state governments, rather than the central federal government. It makes every state responsible for “raising the level of Nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties”.  [2]. 

Social media for health promotion

Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, and Buzz are new terms but they are used everyday by millions of people across the world. The impressive growth in social media has been fascinating to watch, but intriguing as well, when you consider the multitude of applications these tools have unleashed, and their potential to influence population health. Interest in the internet as a health promotion tool has grown immensely in the past decade [3]

Health promotion specialists continually search for new and efficient methods of reaching people of various ages. The use of new technology, more precisely social media, could be a key strategy in helping to solve some of the challenges faced by those in the health promotion field. Interventions incorporating social media channels hold considerable potential for health promotion and address some of the limitations observed by traditional health communication strategies by increasing the potential for interaction, engagement, customization and participation.

Communication is a method for offering social support –which is directly linked to positive health behaviours [4]. Research on health communication interventions has shown that a number of conditions are required for communication to be effective, including the message reaching people on emotional and rational levels [5].

Burning issues

India is a country where we have a vast majority of the population who is still not having proper access to health care services. On the other hand we have a section of the population who have access to the very best of healthcare services but still, there are a few problems which are of great concern. The most vulnerable part of our society is children, children who are in the age group of 10-18 yrs. These are the children who are on their own for many hours after or before school due to nuclear families and also they have access to internet. The problems of Obesity, Nutritional issues, Addiction, Sexual problems and other psychological issues such as Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Suicidal Tendencies are found in the teens.

Another important observation is that the so called educated patients immediately Google a term once they see a doctor. Google can give the meaning, relevance and implications of the disorder or the prescribed drugs. But it can surely not help the patient to understand its “latent” meaning.

Now the questions comes how can these problems be addressed? Can a tool in our and our kids hand (a smart phone with a 3G) solve this eternal problem?  Over the years, the internet has changes people’s relationships. Although doctors, nurses and other health professionals continue to be the first choice for most people with health concerns, online sources, including advice from peers, are a significant source of health information in the US. The social life of health information is dynamic. Two forces are driving online health conversations: 1) the availability of social media tools and 2) the increased desire and activity, especially among people living with chronic conditions, to connect with each other. [6]

The research paper attempts to look at social media as a tool to solve these problems and give a different perspective to health care promotion.

Literature Review

Much of the work has been done in terms of Use of social media for promoting business. Also many researchers have worked in this area which needs to be worked upon for benefit for all. Social media or Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn can be tapped for promoting health care issues and spreading awareness among the people.

The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) is a public private initiative that has collaboratively evolved through consultations with multiple constituencies including Indian and international academia, state and central governments, multi & bi-lateral agencies and civil society groups. PHFI is a response to redress the limited institutional capacity in India for strengthening training, research and policy development in the area of Public Health. The then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, launched PHFI on March 28, 2006 at New Delhi. PHFI recognizes the fact that meeting the shortfall of health professionals is imperative to a sustained and holistic response to the public health concerns in the country which in turn requires health care to be addressed not only from the scientific perspective of what works, but also from the social perspective of, who needs it the most. Taking into account the need of the hour, PHFI has its presence of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.

The Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit was developed by the Electronic Media Branch, Division of News and Electronic Media, Office of the Associate Director of Communication at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) United Sates. It was designed to provide guidance and to the share lessons learned in more than three years of integrating social media into CDC health communication campaigns, activities and emergency response efforts.

A study done by Judy Gold, Alisa E Pedrana, Mark A Stoove, Shanton Chang, Steve Howard, Jason Asselin, Olivia Ilic, Colin Batrouney, Margaret E Hellard  on the topic “  Developing health promotion interventions on social networking sites: Recommendations from the FaceSpace project” was published in J Med Internet Res. 2012 Jan-Feb; 14(1): e30. Published online 2012 February 28. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1875. The study was based on lessons learnt from “The FaceSpace Project”, a sexual health promotion intervention using social networking sites targeting two key at-risk groups. The FaceSpace Project was our first attempt to develop a health promotion intervention using social networking sites. As the popularity of social networking sites continues to increase, we hope that our experience is able to inform the development and evaluation of future health promotion interventions in these spaces. Developing health promotion interventions in this setting, and making mistakes and learning from them is certainly far better than doing nothing at all [8]. With the continuing change in communications media, health organizations must embrace these technologies or risk being left behind.

Another study on “social media and its use in health promotion”  by Joëlle j. Levac& dr. Tracey o’ Sullivan and published in Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences Volume 1, Issue/ 1, Pages 49 -57 talks about how Social media holds considerable potential for health promotion and other health intervention activities, as it addresses some of the limitations in traditional health communication by increasing accessibility, interaction, engagement, empowerment and  customization.  The study has shown encouraging information about the possibilities of using social media to improve access to health information and health care providers, as well as to promote positive health behaviour change. By increasing interaction

and engagement, social media may complement traditional health promotion by raising awareness, spreading influence, and contributing to health behaviour change. It is essential that health organizations incorporate social media in their tailored communication strategies, to modernize

their approaches and increase the likelihood of reaching different age groups. [9]

Health professionals need to be strategic about their presence on social media sites. Because these sites offer tremendous opportunities to post information or create groups, health professionals must compete for user’s attention. In September 2009 on Facebook, for example, only one credible sponsored group appears in the first 50 of 500+ results of the subject “quit smoking”. A sponsored

group is when an organization or company pays to have their group featured on the website. Health organizations can develop sponsored and free groups and pages to better attract viewers.

Social Media can be used to create awareness among teens about Sexually Transmitted diseases, it can be used to Counsel people in their trying times, it can be a medium of spreading important messages and refuting rumors about certain diseases.


Health care is definitely one of the most important areas of any society. If we wish to strengthen the ways of our country, we must eliminate certain evils which are lurking around. And instead of taking a negative way of the social media, we can find ways to use this “so called addiction” to our benefit. Is social media is being used to promote business it can surely be used to promote health. The only challenge is to find the right way and touch the right chord.  This research paper has managed to only touch the first step of the long ladder which talks of uses and importance of social media in healthcare. The researcher has come to the conclusion that though social media can be used to highlight certain causes related to healthcare, a long road lies ahead in discovering how this platform can be used for bridging the gap between the health care service providers and the public.


  1. India
  2. Jugal Kishore (2005). National health programs of India: national policies & legislations related to health. Century Publications. ISBN 978-81-88132-13-3. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  3. Korp, P., Health on the Internet: Implications for Health Promotion. Health Education Research, Vol. 21 no.1 pg. 78-86, 2006
  4. Abroms, L.C., Maibach, E.W., The Effectiveness of Mass Communication to Change Public Behavior. Annual Review of Public Health, 29: 219-234, 2008
  5. Neuhauser, L., Kreps, G.L., Rethinking Communication in the E-health Era. Journal of Health Psychology, 8(1): 7-23, 2003
  6. Fox , S. (2011). The Social Life of Health Information, 2011.
  7. Retrieved July 7, 2011 , from -Life -of-Health -Info.aspx
  8. Qualman E. Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley; 2009.
  9. Abroms, L.C., Lefebvre, R.C., Obama’s Wired Campaign: Lessons for Public Health Communication. Journal of Health Communications, 14:415-423, 2009
  10. Freeman, B., Chapman, S., Gone Viral? Heard the Buzz? A Guide for Public Health Practitioners and  Researchers on how Web 2.0 Can Subvert  Advertising Restrictions and   Spread Health Information. Journal of  Epidemiology and Community Health, 62:778-782, 2008

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