Health literacy and social media are a match made in heaven!
The power of social media and social networking has been dramatically highlighted by events all around the world. From toppling governments to funny flash mobs with their viral YouTube videos, social tools with their broad sweeping reach have shown a world-changing power almost unrivaled in human history. Certainly nothing has driven so much change, so many people to act or react with such immediacy, in such short time frames as have social media tools.
Health literacy skills in the U.S. are rather sad with only about 1 in 10 American adults having “proficient” health literacy. Around 93 million have only “basic” or “below basic” health literacy skills. This is in part due to general literacy skills which are themselves rather sad, according to the 2003 International Adult Literacy & Lifeskills Survey (published in 2005). Rima Rudd, Sc.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health, referenced this when she notes that “more than half of the adults in many industrialized nations (including the US) have low-level literacy skills that constrain their participation in the economy and in society.”
Both general literacy and health literacy skills throughout many areas of the world are not exactly impressive, even throughout so-called developed nations. However, the new power that social media has demonstrated and the vast networking capabilities of the Internet and mobile tech are poised to have a profound impact…if we use them correctly.
Healthcare has already gained from “the power of the social”. In the video “In Plain Language” developed by Dr. Rudd and Dr. William DeJong “for medical and public health professionals who are interested in learning about adult literacy in the US and implications for medicine and for public health”, Dr. Rudd notes that “medicine and public health have both learned a great deal from social marketing.” That is, healthcare has a history of learning from “the power of the social” to improve its messaging.
It is time for healthcare, and for individuals, to maximize the power which social networking and new media tools can bring to help us advance global health literacy.
Posted – July 18, 2012