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Anh Thu Mai

Professor Brody

ENGL 301,

17 April 2019

Social Media as a Health Promotion Tool

In the twenty-first century, the internet is the main source that people are looking to find

the information that they need in daily life. The usage of the internet to promote health education

amongst the people have both beneficial qualities and disadvantages. The internet is a special

tool that includes all people the same opportunities to learn the information that could be helpful

in their lives. Promoting health education through the internet brings the minorities that have

been unreached or difficult to reach in the past to informative research on how to maintain a

healthy lifestyle and prevent diseases from developing. The internet delivers particular

information that an individual need, in that, it eliminates geographical problems. The internet

also results in a lower-cost-option, compare to other approaches, which is a significant change to

the families of low-income.

Aside from the beneficial quality of easy to access by everyone in a short amount of time,

using the internet to spread the health information, it also comes with problems with the accuracy

and currency of the information being posted on social media due to its own good quality of the

easiness of accessibility on social media. The internet also takes away the opportunity to learn

health education in a personal level, because the internet does not allow the emotional

connection from person-to-person. Social media also remains for entertainment purposes,

therefore, may not be suitable to educate health, a subject that many may consider as an

uninteresting topic.
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The idea that using social media as a tool for health promotion because it brings the

inclusion of the minorities that may not have the opportunities to learn about health thoroughly.

Many people outside of the land of opportunities do not have access to programs that promote

health intervention and cures of diseases. Dr. Brad Neiger, a chairman of the Department of

Public Health the University of Brigham Young expresses that “health promotion efforts to

engage diverse audiences such as minority populations and adolescents may be more successful

if they involve social media applications that interface easily with mobile devices” (Neiger,

2012). Not only that young people in developed countries, but those that are in developing

countries are on social media in today’s society. With the advantage of everyone engaging in

social media, sending an important health message with this tool can be a great start in getting a

health education more prominent. With social media spreading quickly, more knowledge will be

in the reach of many people in need of information. Using the internet for health education can

be beneficial in school as well, in that educators can use the resources on media to make the

process of health education in school for amusing for students to engage. All of these factors

make the media valuable in spreading health education, not only in school, but to the populations

that do not get the chances to improve their knowledge to improve their well-being.

Another advantage of using the media to promote health education and intervention of

diseases, is that the internet is a low-cost option, comparing with other programs. Not only to the

people in third-world countries or low-income families in the first-world countries can all have

access to valuable lessons to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In this situation, the internet becomes a

reliance for those people. It is a fact that not everyone has health insurance, and spreading

valuable information using the internet grows into a support and intervention system that

everyone can benefit from. With the media, it “allows tailored health information to be delivered
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to each individual, according to their health status and concern” (Mo, 2012). The internet not

only supplies people with knowledge of the popular diseases, but those that are local to the area

because scientists worldwide can contribute with their informative researches.

Social media can become a powerful tool to spread the message of health because it has

the “potential to remove geographical barriers, or physical limitations which prevent individuals

from seeking face-to-face support” (Mo, 2012). With the internet available, researchers can

publish their findings across the continents that help the rest of the world. The internet helps to

disseminate the health information to the communities that could not be reached in the past by

organizations. The internet creates equal opportunity for people around the world to comprehend

health material that will continue useful and helpful throughout their lives.

Besides all the benefits using the internet to spread the information needed to maintain a

healthy life, researchers and organizations also believe in using popular social media sites, such

as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to transmit health education messages to the people using these

networks. The belief that everyone in the twenty-first century has a social media account or

many, therefore, the information will be reached in a shorter time. Professor Monica Jane, who

currently works in the Department of Public Health at the University of Curtin in Perth,

Australia, states that “most social networking sites are free to join, and some sites have gained

widespread usage. The growth of Facebook membership is a good example of this” (Jane, 2018).

In addition to the problems of accuracy that occur on social media, social media may also

have a negative influence in the minds of young people. Social media sites, like Facebook,

Twitter, and Instagram, give people the power to speak their minds and share personal

information; and therefore, “studies have identified social media as a source of social support”

(Jane, 2018). A lot of young people in our society believe in the power of social media and
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contents that famous people popularize. With the image of “perfection” that these individuals

share on their accounts, may even introduce the incorrect and unrealistic ways to attain “perfect”

body shape that society may desire. In this case, not only that social media websites do not

provide the proper method of promoting health education, but it also becomes an intoxicating

experience for younger users.

In addition to the argument that social media can be the social support system for users;

support is only happening on the superficial level of the computer or smartphone screens.

Professor Monica Jane continues her argument that “a recent study revealed that individuals that

reported experiencing social connectedness through Facebook had lower anxiety and depression,

and greater subjective wellbeing” (Jane, 2018). The evidence shows that people who are in social

media, have an experience contradicting to the claim that social media helps people to connect.

With the argument that individuals that connect with others through the use of social media have

a smaller chance of developing mental illnesses is simply a misleading statement because the

reality of social media increases, self-criticism, especially within the teenage years. Furthermore,

although social media do give people the opportunity to have contact with people around the

world, but it lacks physical connection; for people only get to interact with each other on screens,

which is nearly impossible for people to truly connect with one another.

Another disadvantage of using social media as a health promotion tool is the way that

studies are des. Many of the health promoting organizations use popular social media sites as a

way to communicate and gain data of the population in need of medical attention or knowledge.

Professors Abullah and Hotoon Alshammari, who are working at the University of Hail and the

Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University explain that, “this is a cross sectional study. A

predesign questionnaire was constructed using Survey Monkey software. Then it was emailed to
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the participants. It was sent to the medical students mail groups and posted throw Facebook and

Twitter” (Alshammari, 2017). When using these social media pages to connect to people

regarding to their health conditions, an alarming question that has a significant role in reporting

the results is, how honest are the people that take the survey on the internet? Giving health

information surveys on the internet is not an accurate option when studying the effectiveness of

social media on health promotion due to lack of privacy to share details that are personal.

Along with the problem of the accuracy of the contents that social media offers; the

method of using popular social media sites to promote health education among the people that

many scholars believe may be effective also has its own logically fallacy, which is the

Bandwagon Fallacy. The logical fallacy of Bandwagon is a status appeal fallacy, in that,

something is considered true when it has a popular status. The authors want to convince that

social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are effective tools to promote health

education and knowledge because they have millions of users, and therefore, they must be

adequate for spreading health messages. Doctor Shoba Ramandhan states that, “much of the use

of social media tools appeared to be uni-directional, a flow of information from the organization

to the audience” (Ramanadhan, 2013). Something that many scholars do not consider is that

social media is meant to be for entertainment, and not education. Information only shows up on

people’s page when they follow other users. Because social media is entertainment purposes, it is

unrealistic to spread health education, for not being in the people’s interests.

In conclusion, using the internet to spread health education has its advantages, such as, it

engages the minority audiences that may not have the opportunities of learning in school or

having hospitals nearby. The internet also remains a lost-cost program, and can be reached

anywhere in the world. It also allows people to connect with another across continents, and
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therefore, building a support system. On the other hand, many scholars want to spread health

education through popular social media websites, such as, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Although these networks may be popular, but the contents being posted may not be accurate

because everyone has the ability to publicize their opinions. With social media becoming more

prominent in all ages leads to the fast spreading of information, but the media still remain for

entertainment purposes, therefore, not suitable to be the main source of health promotion. In

order for social media to be beneficial, the government or private organizations should create a

health information page that is similar to Facebook, to secure the accuracy of the information and

also allow people to share their health journey.


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Works Cited

Alshammari, Abdullah S. and Alshammari, Hotoon S. “Use of Social Media and Other

Electronic Media in Health Education and Health Promotion.” The Egyptian Journal of

Hospital Medicine, vol. 69 (6), 2017, p. 2658-2662.

Jane, Monica, et al. “Social Media for Health Promotion and Weight Management: A Critical

Debate.” BMC Public Health, vol. 18, no. 1, July 2018, p. N.PAG. EBSCOhost,

doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5837-3.

Mo, Phoenix. “The Use of Internet for Health Education.” OMICS International, OMICS

International, 5 Nov. 2012, www.omicsonline.org/open-access/the-use-of-internet-for-

health-education-2332-0893.1000e102.php?aid=9839.

Neiger, Brad L., et al. Health Promotion Practice, vol. 13, no. 2, Mar. 2012, pp. 159–164,

doi:10.1177/1524839911433467.

Norman, Cameron D. “Social Media and Health Promotion.” Global Health Promotion, vol. 19,

no. 4, 2012, pp. 3–6.

Ramanadhan, Shoba, et al. “Social Media Use by Community-Based Organizations Conducting

Health Promotion: a Content Analysis.” BMC Public Health, vol. 13, no. 1, 2013, p.

1129.