Using Social Media Channels to Communicate Public Health Messages

Think, for a moment, about how dramatically communication has evolved over your lifetime. Were you born in a pre-Internet, pre-cell phone world? Do you remember a time when your phone calls had to be completed within a 3- to 6-foot radius of a rotary phone, because you were tethered by a phone cord?
One of the essential services of public health agencies is to inform, educate, and empower the public about health-related issues. Public health agencies, like all organizations in the modern world, must adapt to the new era of ubiquitous technology to communicate with the public. Newspaper and network news broadcasts, once essential communication tools, are quickly being eclipsed by social media. In 2012, almost 35% of 18- to 24-year-olds used social media to receive their news (Sasseen, Olmstead, & Mitchell, 2013).
Public health officials have begun using social media outlets to communicate important messages:
Sari Setiogi was worried. In the wake of the Japanese earthquake back in March 2011, panic about the effects of a possible radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant had caused a number of rumours to spring up on social networking site Twitter.
Chief among them was the misconception that drinking iodized wound cleaner and consuming large quantities of iodized table salt would reduce the effects of radiation (rather than potassium iodine tablets taken before exposure, which is recommended). Setiogi learned that people had started stockpiling salt in China. One person had built up a five-year supply. It was time for her to act. ….
The joint efforts paid off. “[For our part] we tweeted asking people not to eat excessive amounts of table salt because it leads to hypertension, and within a couple of days we’d heard people had run back to the shops and asked for refunds for the salt!” Setiogi says. “People retweeted our message and the number of messages telling people to buy the salt went down.” (“Mixed Uptake of Social Media,” 2011)
In this assignment, you analyze a current public health marketing campaign. In your 2- to 3-page analysis, you describe the message and target audience for the campaign, analyze the rationale behind the decision to deliver the message via social media, and apply your knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of different public health agencies.

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