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Although it has been a while since I finalised the last courses of my Public Health Sciences Masters degree and although I wouldn’t give up any of the classes I followed, I must admit that I felt like going back to school when I by coincidence (well, actually through Twitter) became aware of what sounds like an awesome course at the School of Population and Public Health at University of British Colombia.

The course, entitled “Social Media in Health and Medicine“, is the first university course I have come across that focuses specifically on Social media and health. It aims to bring the participants attention to technologies and research associated with social media usage in health and medicine. The basis for offering the course is the acknowledgement that social media is changing how health practitioners, researchers and consumers find, share and discuss health information, contribute their understanding to health and manage information in the digital age. (For more see the detailed course outline)

The course is led by Dean Giustini, who is a reference librarian at the Biomedical Branch Library and from its description the course is laid out to be very much a hands‐on course where students will work directly with social media and decide how new communication practices can fit into their future work. This choice of methodology seems only natural since social media is all about being social and actively communicate, discuss and share – and you learn that much easier if you actually practice it and get your fingers into it. The students are to both microblog, blog, use wikipedia and the course is being refined collaboratively on the HLWIKI Canada SPPH 581H – Social media in health & medicine page.

Being a class on social media it is, even when not a student in the class, possible to follow it online. Using the using the hashtag #spph581h it can be followed on Twitter and through the blog of Dean Giustini, the presentations are made available on slideshare (see the presentation from first session here).

A School of Public Health 2.0?

Although not flashed on the website of the School of Population and Public Health, the University of British Colombia does seem to be a University taking advantage of the offers of web 2.0. The university has its own blog central where both teachers and students are encouraged to create groups, stay in touch and discuss. Although there are lots of half empty blogs etc it seems a good forum and starting point for getting experience with social media in relation to academic life. Offering the class of Social Media in Health and Medicine definitely qualifies the School of Population and Public Health at University of British Colombia to call themselves a School of Public Health 2.0 in my book.

I myself look forward to learning more of the course and research a bit on the background for offering the course, selecting the topics and inviting speakers. The world, or perhaps one should say the universe, of social media is so broad and diverse also when it comes to health and deciding on where to focus, which examples to highlight is a BIG job.

I hope to be able to follow it on Twitter and perhaps some of the student blogs if they are public. Until then, I hope that this can serve as inspiration to other schools of Public Health. There may be a lot we still don’t know or can predict about social media, but one thing we do know is that it can not be disregarded in general or in relation to public health!