Schools of Public Health 1.0 or 2.0?

Who does research in public health sciences? Searching for who and how social media is used to communicate public health research, this question all of a sudden becomes relevant. The answer is of course quite trivial. Lots of institutions and organisations conduct research in public health related issues. The spectrum goes across from private industries and organisation (both profit and non-profit) over semi-private organisation to public institutions such as universities and other government financed research organisations.

Taking a closer look at universities, I have surfed around the internet trying to find out if and to what extend Schools of Public Health have gone on board in the possibilities of web 2.0. Both when it comes to communicating their research as well as just general presence. And what I have found is perhaps not surprising, but in a globalised world I still believe it is worth a thought. What I find is that there seems to big differences across the Atlantic ocean. Starting with my own university (University of Copenhagen) and the Department of Public Health the use of social networks, blogs etc. is really very limited. And they are not alone. It has actually been surprisingly difficult to find examples of use of social web media amongst Schools of Public Health outside the US. Being well aware that I due to language barriers have not been able to go through non-English websites and only having done a limited number of general searches it still surprises me a little. The intentions to share knowledge and research are definitely there. For example the Department of Public Health at University of Copenhagen writes on their website with regards to public outreach:

“In its endeavour to improve public health and deepen understanding of the links between health and society, Department researchers communicate health knowledge and research results through scientific journals and other printed and electronic media, as well as in workshops, seminars and conferences. These propagation efforts seek to establish a debate-oriented dialogue among relevant actors.”

However, the Department does not have anything like a Facebook profile, a LinkedIn group, a Twitter account or the like. Neither is it from the website possible to be guided to any blogs or other platforms that allows for this debate-oriented dialogue which they seem interested in obtaining. And this is perhaps a missed opportunity. Neither the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have much to offer. The Institute itself have a Facebook group, but that seems to be it. With exceptions of course this very limited use of social web media seems to be the general trend across European schools of Public Health. The majority still seem to be on a 1.0 stage.

For links to  European Schools of Public Health look at ASPHER’s (Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region) list of members.

Turning the attention to the US, American Schools of Public Health seem to be adapting better to the social web media possibilities. A good example is UNC Gilings School of Global Public Health. They are present on Facebook, Twitter and have as one of the few an easily accessible Blog Central where they link to both an official blog by the dean as well as blogs by different staff and students of the university. The blogs varies just as much as people and do not follow the same formula. However, since every topic and every author will have a different prefered format the variation only makes sense.

Looking at other schools of public health in the US quite a lot of them are on eg. Facebook and Twitter and also LinkedIn and uses the sites to communicate what they do and what happens at the school (eg. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Boston University, Tulane University etc.). As with the European schools of Public Health there are of course exceptions but here I would say the general trend is a much stronger attempt to make use of web 2.0.

For links to  American Schools of Public Health look at ASPH’s (Association of Schools of Public Health) list of members, who BTW also have a presence on social web media and offers their members help in developing Facebook and Twitter outreach campaigns.

In comparison to ASPH, the European sister association ASPER (Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region) have very limited use of social web media sites apart from a ASPHER blog, through which research from different member schools is highlighted.

From the above it could sound like being online is a quality in it self, but this is not my point. I have not yet gone into the specific sites and can draw no conclusions at this stage whether American schools of Public Health are better than their European sister schools in reaching new audiences in their research communication, are entering into new dialogue etc. But I’ll be curious to look more into that… What does seem like a trend to me at this stage (will keep exploring!) is that an Atlantic ocean makes a difference in whether a School of Public Health is 2.0 or 1.0.

4 thoughts on “Schools of Public Health 1.0 or 2.0?

  1. MsSofie

    Do you think the ingagement in social media is linked to the funding mechanisms of universities? or do you think it is more related to innovation and willingness to take on new ways of communication…not to forget that facebook bagan at Harvard…

  2. Well, I think you have a good point. Definitely there can be a financial interest in a presence on social web media and that the funding mechanisms in the US becomes a driver for trying out new methods. Both to communicate to potential and existing donors about what the university is doing, but also to attract students.

    That said, I do think that there is also a more, call it innovative, side to taking up this new communication methods. It just seems like the americans have picked up on this to a larger extend. Whether it has come about due to funding mechanisms or has other explanations it has surely meant that people are more used to the concept and that it is becoming an integrated part of general communication strategies.

    The differences across the atlantic also comes out when you look at CDC and ECDC. Go to their respective website. You’ll see that CDC has a facebook group, a twitter account, at blog and multimedia tools like widgets for smart phones and webpages to help spread their messages. ECDC doesn’t really have anything that can match it.
    Not sure what the reason for this is – but as said funding is an interesting aspect to look into.

    And then I guess there are two ways of approaching the investigation of causes to the difference. One is asking american schools of public health, CDC etc . why they ARE on social media, the other is to ask european schools of public health, ECDC etc whey they ARE NOT.

  3. Pingback: A true School of Public Health 2.0: “Social Media in Health and Medicine” at University of British Colombia « Public Health Science Communication 2.0

  4. Pingback: Students minding the science gap in public health « Public Health Science Communication 2.0


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