Can you measure how social media friendly Schools of Public Health are?

How social media friendly are Danish Schools of Public Health? Nordic Schools of Public Health? European Schools of Public Health? And which are the most friendly? Can it at all be measured? And what does it mean to score high on social media friendliness?

The answers to these questions are not straight forward. But if we turn our heads to the other side of the Atlantic, an attempt to answer the question of how social media friendly American Schools of Public Health are, and who are the most friendly has been made by the people of (*read more about them below). They have compared the 57 different Schools of Public Health and come up with a list of the 25 Most Social Media Friendly Schools of Public Health for 2012.

The scores are calculated based on the number of followers and the amount of activity on the three most popular sites: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as the number of followers on LinkedIn. In addition, activity on Google Plus, Pinterest, and Flickr was also taken into account.  (read more about the scoring system here).

The ‘winner’ is Harvard School of Public Health, closely followed by University of Memphis School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Branding and attracting students

So why is this interesting? Well, the motivation for making this list, as presented by, was that social media play a key role for American universities in attracting prospective students. A survey presented in an article thus showed that about two-thirds of high school students uses social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to check out colleges. This obviously makes social media an important tool in branding the School, but are there other benefits to being social media friendly?

Effects on communicating science and public engagement in science?

It would be interesting to study what other motives there are for the universities in having a strong social media presence, and studying how this affects the way social media is used. Apart from attracting students has it contributed to bringing attention to and communicate research performed by the university? Has it had an impact on the application and implementation of their research? Or even and impact on Public Health? Of course part of the method to attract students is to explain what research the university undertakes, but has the social media presence also lead to discussions of research and dialogue with both current and future students as well as the general public? It would be interesting to learn more about this. Especially if one is to argue for why European Schools of Public Health should prioritize social media, since the attraction of students, although still relevant, plays a less prominent role for the schools. I am not myself aware of any such research studies, but if they exist it would be great to learn about them.

*MPH Programs was created as a free resource for students interested in graduate public health, public administration, public policy and health administration programs. Their goal in creating this site is to attract students to these under-served yet highly rewarding fields. The goal is to highlight MPH programs around the globe including Online MPH programsCEPH Accredited ProgramsMPH Careers, the MPH Experience and more.

Does the technical staff at the World Health Organization (WHO) tweet?

At least on paper the World Health Organization (WHO) constitutes the foremost authority when it comes to public health. According its own website the organisation is “responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.” (quote from

Having worked for the organisation on several occasions, WHO is in my opinion not always living up to their foremost authority status. And when it comes to exploring the use of social media in public health they have definitely not been front-runners but rather seriously been lacking behind.

All though WHO has applauded their own use of social media (eg. in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization), I believe that they until recently have taken their mouth a little full when doing so. As I mentioned in my blog post A very non-social media article about the World Health Organization, public health and social mediasocial media was definitely not a part of my world as a WHO professional staff member. It was never encouraged used or explored. And even though the organisation is now a frequent tweeter on @WHO and have profiles on both Facebook and YouTube, I still miss more integration of social media in WHO’s work and traditional communication channels like Bulletin of the World Health Organization. But most importantly I miss seeing them integrate social media into their technical work, research and research communication.

Changes happening?

But changes might be happening, and even slow starters can get going. I was therefore happy to read the blog post WHO Finds Social Media Indispensable in Managing Global Health Crises by David J Olsen. David Olsen have visited WHO’s Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) and talked to Christine Feig, WHO’s head of communications and Sari Setiogi, a WHO social media officer, about the organisation’s use of social media. Christine Feig describes how social media has fundamentally changed WHO health surveillance and gives examples from the response to the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima radiation crisis of 2011. Social media officer Sari Setiogi (on of two social media officers in the entire organisation) even acknowledges that WHO have perhaps not been among the fastest to adopt social media, but that they during the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic of 2009 “learned their lesson the hard way” by totally ignoring social media. And according to Sai Setiogi, social media is likely to become a bigger and bigger component in WHO’s work.

Where is the technical staff?

So WHO has taken on social media. They (or at least their communication department) are actively communicating to and with the public and they are analyzing and identifying trends on Twitter and Facebook with relevance for public health (eg. the fast spreading misconceptions of intake of iodine during the Fukushima radiation crisis).

Using social media not just for mass communication but also for research is refreshing to see. What I miss from David Olsen’s post is however the voice of the WHO technical staff. It is natural to approach the communication department when wanting to learn more about an organisation’s use of social media, and if anyone in the organisation should using social media it is the communication people, right? But what about other staff members? What about the technical staff? And how about the managerial level? Are they blogging, tweeting, members of LinkedIn groups etc.? Giving the voice only to the communication department makes me wonder:

  • Is the use of social media in WHO something confined to the communication department?
  • Is it only used for the management of global health crises, or does it go beyond catastrophes?
  • Is social media a tool used by for example the department of Non-communicable diseases when doing research or providing technical guidance and support?
  • Does the professional staff of Roll Back Malaria (WHO’s malaria programme) blog about their work?
  • Is the director of Health System Financing on Twitter?
  • Does the mental health department staff participate in Twitter discussions?

WHO’s technical staff might very well be using social media (even though it isn’t mentioned, doesn’t mean that it is not happening). Perhaps they are encouraged to do so, perhaps they are doing it on their own initiative. Perhaps there are regional differences (which is the case for many issues in WHO) and even differences from country office to country office in the use of social media for science communication. In any case, I really would encourage WHO to open its eyes to social media as a tool not just for communicating health messages and analysing influenza trends and misconceptions of iodine intake, but also as a means of science communication. As several examples on this blog shows there are lots of opportunities worth exploring. By taking on the challenge WHO could potentially also in the area of social media and public health science communication become an organisation “providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.”

#hcsm #hcsmeu #hcsmca etc. – Twitter discussions on health and social media

A few months ago, the meaning of this: #hcsm, #hcsmeu of #hcsmca would have been the greatest mystery to me. I now know of course that they are hashtags(#) for Twitter discussions on topics under the umbrella of health care and social media.

The concept is similar to that of the Twitter Journal Clubs. Once a week at a given time a discussion on an before hand agreed topic takes place. All who are interested are welcome to participate. All they have to do is be online, have a Twitter account and through tweets equiped with the appropriate hashtag share their views, opionons, articles etc. These kinds of discussions exits on a million topics I am sure. In this blog, I will write about a few of the most likely many health related Twitter discussions.

#hcsm is as mentioned above a discussion forum for health care and social media. it is focused on a global conversation, but there are several subgroups each focused on for example a specific geographical area such as Europe: #hcsmeu, Latin America: #hcsmla, Canada: #hcsmca and more.

I admit, that I have not yet been an active contributor to the scheduled discussions, but do enjoy the amazing thing about Twitter discussion: the open format and that everyone can follow it, also after it has taken place. In order to get myself a better overview of the #hcsm’s I have come across until now I thought I’d just list them here. Mostly as a help to myself, but perhaps it would also be useful to others too. Therefore the blog format.

#hcsm – Healthcare Communications & Social Media

#hcsm seems to have been the ‘original’ hcsm. It is a weekly chat on Twitter held every Sunday night at 8pm Central Time. It was established in January 2009 as a way to bring individuals together to discuss health care and communications and social media – including doctors, patients, lawyers, communicators, for-profits, non-profits, hospitals, health systems, insurers, and many more. The topic for each chat is decided by a moderator but based on suggestions from the participants which can be tweeted to @HealthSocMed. On the website it is possible to watch past live #hcsm streams (eg. October 23). The questions/topics cover a quite wide arrange of issues. Sometimes it is broad questions like “Which disease/condition is receiving the most resources/attention/support via SM? Why? How can we reach more patients? But others are much more narrow: “Advanced speech recognition (ie Siri for iPhones) is here – should automated health Q&As be monitored?”. The relevance to Public Health Science Communication varies a lot of course. The main focus is health care and the role of patients. But sometimes the discussion topics s are indeed very Public Health relevant, eg. “How do you prevent spread of misinformation during crises? How do you educate public to know who/what to trust online?”

#hcsm has a website/blog and Twitter hashtag.

#hcsmeu – Healthcare Social Media in Europe

#hcsmeu is a community of EU healthcare blogger, twitterers and social media users. They describe themselves as a space for all healthcare enthusiasts to meet and converse, to  post and share events, projects and initiatives within social media healthcare.The main focus is patient centered. The mission is to help drive forward the adaptation of social media can improve quality, access, value and effectiveness of health care delivery to patients. The hope is to increase the empowerment of patients in health prevention and disease recovery. #hcsmeu convene at noon UK time / 1pm central European time every Friday for a Twitter discussion of health care and social media.

#hcsmeu has a website/blog, a Twitter hashtag, are on Facebook and LinkedIn.

In addition to the general hcsm for Europe, a number of countries have their own #hcsm discussions. These include France (#hcsmeufr in French), Spain (#hcsmeues in Spanish), Austria (only own website, uses #hcsmeu) and UK (#hcsmuk also has a daily collection of links)



#hcsmca – Healthcare Social Media in Canada

I thought I’d also just list #hcsmca, since Canadian Universities seem to be very much one of the frontrunners in linking public health and social media. Health Care Social Media Canada a was inspired by the success of #hcsm and #hcsmeu. Like the bigger #hcsm, Healthcare Social Media Canada also hosts a weekly tweet chat which takes place on Wednesdays at 1pm EST. Again, the focus is primarily on the patient and relation between patient and health care provider. Transcripts of past chats in can be found in a Transcripts Collection where the content of  is searchable. The #hcsmca also has monthly meetups across Canada where the participants can meet in person.

#hcsmca have website/blog and can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.

#hcsmanz – Health Care Social Media Australia and New Zealand [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

#hcsmanz is Australia and New Zealand’s version of #hcsm discussion groups. It is of course primarily aimed at interested professionals working with health related issues in Australia and New Zealand. The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmanz. The discussion takes place every Sunday evening on Twitter at 22:00NZ, 20:00AEDT, 19:00AEST, 19:30ACDT, 17:00AWST. Transcripts from the discussion are available here. See the below comment to this blog post to read more about the #hcsmanz’s discussions and the main areas of focus which is influenced by the large distances and geographically layout of e.g. Australia, why rural health and equity is a common theme for the discussions.

#hcsmanz can be found on Facebook and there is a The #hcsmanz Daily collecting the relevant links shared via the hashtag.

#hcsmla – Health Care Social Media Latin America [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

#hcsmla covers Latin America and is naturally a discussion conducted in Spanish mainly. It started with a beta version in November 2010 and is therefore approaching its one year anniversary. As my Spanish skills are still not strong enough to read and follow discussions I encourage you to visit The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmla. The discussions take place every Tuesday evening (for the specific time check the website). Transcripts from the discussion are available from there website.

#hcsmla can be found on Facebook and on their website/blog.

#hcsmasia – Health Care Social Media Asia [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

Also Asia have their geographic twitter discussion on health care and social media under the #hcsmasia. It is used for people interested in following news, blogs, and tweets regarding  healthcare information in Asia and  the use of the internet and Social Media. The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmasia. #hcsmasia has a monthly twitter chat every first Tuesday of the month at 9 pm JPT. Based on a quick view tt does not seem to be as actively used as many of the other #hcsms, but is also one of the most recent having been establish in February 2011.

#hcsmasia can be found on Facebook and on their website.

#hcsmglobal – Health Care Social Media Global [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

In addition to regional hcsms there is a discussion group that calls itself #hcsmglobal. They tweet under the hashtag #hcsmglobal and aim to bring together people from different chapters health care social media discussions happening to discuss once a month. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out exactly when these monthly discussions take place, so follow the hashtag.

#hcsmglobal can be found on Facebook, their website and there is a The #hcsmglobal Daily collecting the relevant links shared via the hashtag.

#hcsmse Health Care Social Media Sweden [added to this blog 21. November 2011]

A brand new hcsm in Europe had its first pilot chat this month. #hcsmse from Sweden is know facilitating discussions in Swedish on Fridays from 12-1pm. A transcript from the first #hcsmse discussion is available online. Also a Wikimap of the discussion can be found. The first discussion was in Swedish (and Danish), and the questions up for discussion are posed in Swedish. Comments in English are however also welcomed by the moderators. So don’t hold back in joining the discussion.

@hcsmse do not yet have a facebook presence or seperate website, but news about it is posted on

Lots of other social media and Twitter based discussion groups out there

There are lots and lots of other hashtags, discussion forums out there. It is really quite a jungle. For me it is a little bit trial and error to find out which ones are relevant for me to follow. #hitsm (Health IT Social Media) is for example sometimes interesting to follow, but also quite heavily IT focused. I have earlier blogged about the Twitter Journal Clubs which are also examples of Twitter forums for discussions of public health related issues in a virtual discussion group. As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn also have many groups for linking and raising discussions on public health issues. The possibilities are enormous, so I guess it is mostly a question of trying it out and find out which groups suits one’s needs.

Why use #hcsm, #hcsmeu or #hcsmca when you are on Twitter?

Apart from the scheduled discussions which many of these Twitter discussions groups have, it is also possible to use the hashtags outside the discussions when you are writing about something relevant to the topic health care communication & social media. So why should you do that? Well #hcsmca have listed some of the reasons, which I take the liberty of sharing with the rest of you in a slightly moderated version

  • Share and inform: Tell others about the great stuff you’ve read or are doing.
  • Broadcast good stuff: Don’t be shy. If you’ve got something you want to get out there, leverage the #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu communities and the get the word out about your new initiative, your latest blog post or an upcoming conference or event.
  • Ask questions: Adding #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu to your question lets you tap into the collective intelligence of a community that is further reaching than any single set of followers.
  • Request participation: If you’re looking for people to contribute comments, opinions or ideas, the Twitter discussion groups gives easy access to a broad range of people
  • Expand your network: Participate in #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu conversations any time and find people you want to follow and be found by others. This could be a way to connect with people you would normally not have access to
  • Twitter filter: Use it as a Twitter filter to make sure that tweets are relevant to your area of interest
  • Stay current: Get to know of new articles, initiative, projects, news quickly

I am trying to find the balance of which to follow and it is in the beginning a little time-consuming, but interesting indeed and a world one should be aware of. There are lots of people and insights to be found.

A public health community on LinkedIn

Under the headline ‘Global health and social media don’t mix. Says who?’ The Global Public Health group on LinkedIn announced yesterday that 10,000 people from across the world are now members.

I am one of the 10,000 members and all though I have had my LinkedIn profile for many years I just joined the Global Public Health group about four months ago. I did not have very high hopes for theses LinkedIn groups (I also join a group called Health 2.0) but I must say that my prejudice have been proven wrong. The groups I have joined are indeed very active and contains a bunch of people who are ready to share their knowledge, ideas, contacts etc.

As a participant at Science Online London 2011 last week I encountered participants who shook their head when they heard that LinkedIn was actively being used. But as others rightly pointed out LinkedIn has become a very useful network platform for some areas. I just didn’t know that this applied to Public Health too.

Through the two groups I have established contacts to people interested in the same topics as my self, I have been given great references to articles, project and initiatives and I have entered into separate communication with people I did not know of before and have never met, but who have done an effort to help me out. All in all, a very good experience. I do not know if LinkedIn is the most optimal platform, but it seems to work and people are here and actively participating, which makes it a social network. And it proves that Global Public Health and social media can mix. Lots of more mixing can surely happen, but this is a good starting point for newcomers to using social media as part of their public health professional life.

The Global Public Health group has 12 sub-groups covering specific topics such as maternal and reproductive health, social determinants, health finance and economics. The group has recently changed to an open group, so daily discussions can be read by anyone. The group Health 2.0 is closed, which means that you have to join it to be able to follow the discussions.

In the menu bar of LinkedIn it is under ‘groups’ also possible to get recommendations on groups one might find interesting. This reveals that there are several public health related but topic specific groups and organisation specific groups out there. Some bigger than others of course, but surely worth the time to go through.

Just like Facebook, Google+ etc. LinkedIn now also have apps for iPhone and Android.

Going from a distant Twitter to a LinkedIn social web life

As I wrote in my first post on this blog, I do very much feel like a beginner at using social web media, although I have been on Facebook LinkedIn etc. for what feels like a long time now.

But I must say that new worlds are opening themselves to me. Here just a few words on some of my experiences.

LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn was to me previously a place where I just accepted the invitation from my friends as they joined. Rarely did I check out their profiles and all I knew of it was that within certain sectors it was a good place to look for jobs. However, LinkedIn is much more than this. It is a window opening up for direct access to people all across the globe who work on or are interested similar topics. Even when one thinks no one else works on that particular issue, LinkedIn is a way to prove one wrong. I recently joined the group “Global Public Health” and through active participation in one of the discussions I have gained so much more than I imagined. Contact to people interested in the same issues, access to project I didn’t know existed and realisation that social web media really does mean social. The interest from others and willingness to share contacts, ideas, recommendations etc. is overwhelming. It has all resulted in that I now find myself adding to my LinkedIn contacts people I have never met before in real life, but who indeed it does make sense to be linked to. I really look forward to exploring further (eg. through the “groups you may like” function) how LinkedIn can connect me to relevant people, stories, projects and so on. Only worry is right now: Can one become member of too many groups, networks, etc.?

(for newcomers to LinkedIn this guide might be useful in getting started)


My Twitter account (@bjerglund) was created a looong time ago. But never used. I must say I didn’t really get what the point was or what the added value was of a service that only contains status updates (using Facebook terminology). Neither did I understand why the media kept referring to this as one of the most powerful tools of the people. BUT, also for Twitter I now realise that I had lots to learn. I definitely still have a long way to go, but already I see a lot of advantages. Once you get a hang of the concept it really is very easy and after some trial and errors I now follow the tweets of some really cool people. In my case these cool people are especially enthusiasts in the field of science/public health, communication and social media. It provides much inspiration and opens up the world to things I am quite convinced I would not have come across otherwise. A function of Twitter that has been very useful to me in learning to use Twitter has been the “retweet” function. This is a great tool to help in identify new people who could be relevant to follow. Another enlightenment for me have been how strongly Twitter and the world of blogs is connected. Through Twitter I have become aware of the coolest blogs, projects, websites etc. AND have been able to spread the word about my own blog to others. I still find it fascinating that people, whom I have never meet or spoken a word,  are followers of my tweets. With regards to my own tweeting skills I still have a long way to go, but hopefully that will improve. Also in using the hashtag (#) function there are lots to learn, but I do see the advantages of the function in connecting with more people, but also in information gathering. Doing a search on Twitter is almost as important as a search on Google is one want latest updates on what is happening.

(for newcomers to Twitter this guide might be useful especially in learning the Lingo)

As a beginner in this world, all suggestions on how I make even better use of these new dimensions of my world are of course welcome. In the mean time I’ll surf around out there and keep following people, take part in discussions, tweet and retweet, follow links and recommendations for further reading and so on. I look forward to meeting you out there.