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The Academics: The educational possibilities of social media

Shouldn't pharmacy be taking advantage of popular networking platforms, ask The Academics

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are just three social media platforms taking the world by storm.

According to a report by Ofcom: “In the UK, nearly all 16-34s are online (98%) and two-thirds (66%) of them have social networking profiles. Those who have a current online profile (96%) have one on Facebook, and 83% of 16-24s visit social networking sites more than once a day.”

People aged 55 and older now represent the fastest-growing age segment in global social networking usage, with penetration by this age group at around 80%.

Recent research also suggests that there are no significant differences in the use of social media by race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Health interventions delivered by social networking sites could therefore be an effective way to reach adults of different genders, ethnicities and backgrounds – factors that have proven to be barriers for some patients accessing pharmacy services.

Social media offers pharmacists innovative opportunities to further enhance their role in educating patients on healthy living initiatives. With the younger generation growing up with this technology, evidence suggests this has led to an increase in levels of sedentary lifestyle, with a massive impact on obesity levels. Pharmacists can use social media to promote healthy behaviours such as weight loss, alcohol awareness and physical activity in a way that ensures they are engaged.

As patient acceptance increases and pharmacists become more familiar with the concept of social media as a health education tool, they will find that it is a quick and convenient route to keep track of health outcomes, allowing them to not only support individual patients but also the wider public.

At our university, we have tried to investigate this concept as a tool for public health promotion. Students promoted topics ranging from smoking cessation to stress relief and nutrition. We found that not only did the public learn about these health topics through the evidence-based posts but the students also learned from creating and posting these messages – this provided a unique learning opportunity that current pharmacists could also benefit from.

Social media can be used to highlight the key role that pharmacy plays in supporting patients with their health needs. It can be used as a health promotion tool and is a good way to build links within the local communities and beyond. It raises the profile of the profession and also offers a unique opportunity for pharmacists to share and showcase good practice.

The Academics both teach pharmacy at a leading London university

  • Ofcom, Adults’ media use and attitudes, 2015
  • Ferrara et al., Feasibility of a social networking site to promote physical activity in adults, International Journal of Health Promotion and Education (2015), vol. 53, no. 2, 58-67

Have you used social media to promote your services?  

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