Written by Sophia Maney, Account Executive
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, social media messaging about health and healthcare was not very prevalent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have seen a 50% increase in usage, and transformed into a place for constant communication about COVID-19 and all things health. Before diving deeper into how the transformation took place, it is important to first understand health communications.
According to the Society for Health Communications, it is the practice of “using
communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations.” Its goal is to improve patient health outcomes, enrich behaviors, and public health practices. Amid the pandemic, this type of communication became vital due to the new practices that society had to adopt.
With an immense amount of conflicting information floating around social media, doctors and other medical professionals became active on social media to put out accurate information. Hospitals and medical clinics such as the Mayo Clinic and the World Health Organization have also established their presence on social media and put out information daily.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and many doctors dedicated their time to educating the public about the severity of COVID-19 and the importance and effectiveness of wearing a mask. However, in 2021, the conversation shifted as the COVID-19 vaccine became available to the public. While social media has been used to fight disinformation throughout the pandemic, it has also been used to bring light to disparities in the healthcare system.
Lower-income and minority communities in the United States have been disproportionately affected by the healthcare system throughout history, especially the Covid-19 pandemic. A study done by Massachusetts General Hospital found that racial and ethnic minorities were “more hesitant or unwilling to receive a COVID-19 vaccine compared with whites during the initial phase of the vaccine rollout.” Additionally, African-Americans in the U.S. who wanted to receive the vaccine were less likely to than white people.
With this knowledge, social media influencers, pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, and many other organizations have created advertising campaigns to run across social media to address people's concerns and make them aware of the benefits of the vaccine. Companies want to run ads on social media because it has the power to reach new audiences and spread information at a record pace. Over the last two years, social media has significantly transformed the conversation around health and healthcare. Without it, we would not have seen a change as monumental as we did in the way people access information about healthcare and their health.