Social media is pervasive and widely accessible for people around the world, with millions of users on free-access platforms. As a result, they can be used to communicate health-related messages to large audiences in a rapid and cost-effective way. However, the lack of regulation, easy accessibility, and the potential for misinformation are some key challenges to the use of social media in public health.
Despite the presence of misinformation, social media can also be a powerful tool for people to share information about their experience with disease or treatment. This has been shown to enhance patients’ emotional support by providing them with the ability to connect with others who are suffering from similar illnesses or experiences, as well as to improve their quality of life by providing them with a forum for discussing their symptoms.
Additionally, social media can help to improve communication between healthcare professionals and patients, as well as provide an opportunity to promote and evaluate interventions. Moreover, the use of social media to disseminate information and encourage behaviour change can be used to optimize resources that would otherwise be allocated to costly campaigns in traditional mass media.
Lastly, social media can be used to advocate for policy changes that may benefit people’s health. For example, many non-governmental health organizations use social media to mobilize funding to raise funds for individuals in need of medical care, to promote policies aimed at combating NCDs, or to address issues such as the lack of access to adequate healthcare services and treatment.