Use Social Media Networking to Build Community Health and Wellness

Social media often gets a bad rap for bringing out the worst in us, but when we use it for good it can be an amazing way to connect with the community. I live in the St. Louis area, where TriZetto Provider Solutions is based, and recently wrote an article for the St. Louis Business Journal on using social media to bond with our friends and neighbors as a way to improve health and wellness for everyone.

The idea came to me after reading the Saint Louis Local Public Health System Assessment on health in the city. Suffice it to say, the report found many areas for improvement when it comes to healthcare in the city; this is likely no different than where you live, whether it’s urban or rural, large or small. So the idea can work anywhere at any time, thanks to social media.

Using Social Media Technology to Improve Health Education, Empowerment Your Community

Advances in consumer technologies are making huge changes to healthcare every day. For many of us, understanding the latest health issues—whether it’s where to go to get the best quality care in St. Louis or learning new ways to improve health on your own—seems an insurmountable task. However, our smartphones and other Internet-connected devices allow us to easily tap into an almost unlimited amount of health education information, which can help us lead healthier, more active lives.

The recent Saint Louis Local Public Health System Assessment took a look at the issue of health education and empowerment and found, unfortunately, that our city is lacking. In the report, The Illinois Public Health Institute brought together many community members to take a critical look at the ways in which the community can “inform, educate and empower people about health issues.”

The report contains a comprehensive list of “essential services” related to healthcare in the city. They range from diagnosing and investigating health-related issues (this received the highest score in the report and is something the community is doing fairly well) to educating and empowering citizens; something we are not doing very well at all. 

Informing, educating and empowering people about health issues ranked ninth out of ten essential services. This critical service includes providing information through community activities, media outreach, discussion with healthcare providers to promote health programs and educational programs provided through schools, churches and businesses, according to the report.

Community Health Status

One way to measure how we’re doing as a community is by looking at our overall health status. In 2016, the Kaiser Family Foundation asked a representative sample of people living in Missouri their thoughts about health. Nineteen percent reported their health status was “Fair” or “Poor,” a 1.2 percent negative increase from the previous year. If the trend continues, Missourians will become members of an ignominious group of states with the worst reported health status in the nation.

One way we might buck the trend is by coming together as a social media community. By banding together through our personal social media accounts, we can shift some of the communication burden from public institutions to ourselves, to our communities and to our networks.

Social Sharing

Through our own social networks, we can share information on health issues via Facebook, LinkedIn and even old-fashioned emails and texts. Doing so creates a grass-roots effort, which can help us build new relationships outside our existing social networks and, importantly, swiftly share information with those people.

When we see an interesting article about a new health treatment, an online or in-person educational session or interesting workout, why not share the information with family and friends? If you enjoy biking, hiking, walking or relaxing, do the same. And then ask them to send it to their social networks. Every social media “share” expands the reach of our initial messages exponentially by adding people outside our networks.

Together, we might be able to create a health-improvement revolution by flexing our fingers.

Social media, of course, isn’t the only answer (and certainly not the answer) to informing and empowering people about health issues, but it can be part of a larger strategy to increase the reach of important information that we might otherwise not see.

The great thing about using the technologies many of us spend a fair amount of time with every day is that we have an opportunity help the ones we love and those we don’t yet know.
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