As my friends and colleagues will tell you, nothing energizes me like a good conversation about improving America’s health. Earlier in my career, such as when I was Commissioner of Public Health for the District of Columbia, these public health conversations happened in-person, at community meetings or at big conferences. Back then, we faced a constant challenge: how do we broaden the conversation and become more inclusive? How do we make sure health information doesn’t just sit with “health experts” but instead reaches everyday Americans who want to do what’s best for themselves and their families.
These days, I am surrounded by useful health-enhancing inputs from a broad array of experts and just plain folks thanks to the power of social media. It just struck me today how far we’ve come. Just the other day, as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I spotted a tweet with the “#flu” hashtag and immediately thought, “I haven’t gotten my annual flu shot.” I took care of it that very day. How simple and powerful is that?
Thanks to tools like Twitter and Facebook, good health advocates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (@CDCFlu) to local community clinics can tweet about things like flu shot availability and drive people toward healthy actions. We can all join in the conversation by asking questions, sharing experiences and reminding our loved ones to take personally appropriate actions. Of course, as with all health information, be sure to check the reliability of your sources, like well-known government agencies, academic institutions, credible patient advocacy organizations, expert clinicians, and publications from trusted medical journals.
We’ve democratized health conversations, and I believe this empowers more people to take actions for better health and share important information quickly. I am especially interested in the growth in health oriented apps on our smartphones and mobile tablets that facilitate access to information and tracking of personal behavior. Whether it’s documenting the number of steps we take, monitoring our sleep patterns, recording our daily food intake, connecting with our social networks, or even scheduling an appointment with a health professional, today’s tools offer so many new ways of being engaged in improving our health.
Let’s keep finding opportunities to create a healthier America, healthy communities, healthy families and healthy people. Stay in touch with each other and circulate health-enhancing information whenever you can.
If you haven’t already, you can follow me on Twitter @DrReedTuckson and follow America’s Health Rankings @AHR_Rankings. I’d love to hear if you’ve gotten your flu shot yet as well all the ways social media has spurred positive health actions in your life.