5 Ways To Improve Your Health Using Social Media

Editor note: This is a guest post by Watson. If you would like to contribute too, please contact me.

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Early in 2010 the Pew Institute – a well-regarded think tank in the U.S. – released a study on how people with chronic diseases and routine aches and pains use social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plurk, Brightkite and similar sites to actually improve health.

You don’t usually think of Facebook as a source of good information on health care but, in fact, FB is fast becoming a valuable search tool. With hundreds of millions of posters, someone is going to post a tip that just might make you feel better. In fact, FB search is increasing at a phenomenal rate with some early fortune tellers predicting that FB will someday outpace Google for search. (Not likely, but stranger things have happened.)

Anyway, the report identified a number of ways social media sites help with whatever ails you, so here are some suggestions for turning MySpace into a resource to improve your health.

Important note: Social media should not replace regular consultations with a medical professional. Use these resources to educate yourself to become your own best health advocate, but don’t replace professional health care with Facebook.

1. Linkage

Social media sites enable the creation of groups – groups of people with similar interests, concerns, politics and health issues. You can find numerous cancer survivor support groups, information resources on hearing loss, “how to quit smoking” support groups that have active forums, blogs and discussion boards.

Not only do you link up with folks who experience what you experience, you get tips and suggestions for improving quality of life day to day. Become a member of a health-consciousness, social media group and you’ll never walk alone.

2. Wiki Your Way to Health

Medipedia and other wiki health sites are one of the best uses of social media available to you. Like other wiki sites (Wikipedia being the best known), contributors add to the collection of knowledge.

Other contributors expand on what others have posted previously, or correct errors or raise red flags that a stated fact needs a reference. Much of the information on wiki sites is written by medical professionals – researchers, professors and primary health care providers. So, you can do a self-diagnosis before running off to your family doctor.

3. Learn About the Health in Your Town.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) compiles health data by the metric tonne. Recently, the DHHS has released this data, collected globally, to app developers who have created health apps that provide health stats in any region of the world, formatted to read like the daily weather forecast.

Google and Bing have mashed much of this data. This has led to a series of competitions to see who comes up with the best health app using this newly-available data. There’s even a game called “Community Clash” that focuses on using health stats for good.

You can expect to see these apps popping up on social media sites so, not only will you be able to access the weather report, you’ll also get routine updates on flu outbreaks and where the local vaccination clinic will be that day. The latest in health information at the local level based on an ever-expanding base of data – the next big thing in social media. Just watch.

4. The Doctor Is In

The medical community has taken to social media in a big and effective way.

Medical specialists post articles to ezine, goarticles, helium and other content syndicators. It builds the professional’s authority but more importantly, it provides good health information from practicing health care professionals.

This content shows up on health blogs so use technocratic.com, the search engine for blogs, to find the health information you’re looking for. It isn’t hard to find good, understandable information written by someone just like your family doctor. Free.

5. Ask The Medical Professional

Sites like Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn’s Q & A enable you to post a specific question about an ache or pain. You’ll get a few “folk” remedies and anecdotal stories about “how I fixed it,” but you often get a written response from a real medical professional.

Got a vision problem? Post your questions on these answer sites and, no doubt, you’ll get a reply from an optometrist in Omaha or Oslo or Osaka. Be specific in asking your question (provide symptoms) and be patient (pun intended).

It may take a few days before you get the response you’re looking for so you can decide when to make an appointment with your family physician.

So feel better about your Facebook hours. It’s not a waste of time – especially when it makes you feel so much better.

Log in and discover how social media is good for your health.

Guest post: Watson is a stay at home dad & fitness enthusiast who writes on the topic of adjustable dumbbells

Related book: Social Media in Healthcare: Connect, Communicate and Collaborate

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