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Stanford Medicine

Global Health, Public Health, Technology

Using social media to fight cholera

I quite enjoyed this entry, on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog Impatient Optimists, about a public-health specialist  reluctantly embracing social media. Helen Matzger, who says she once thought Twitter, Facebook and the like were just “for young people,” has been taken by surprise at how beneficial social media is to her work:

I’ve found that I can get information more quickly about a cholera outbreak in an African country via Twitter than any other means.

People tweet links to newspapers I would normally never access, from countries in Africa reporting outbreaks. Twitter also provides links to articles and other information I may have missed–information that are so important to my work, including these amazing photos from Sierra Leone posted by the BBC.  The range of information I read from “non-traditional” news sources helps me get a fuller picture of the political, economic, and humanitarian complexities caused by cholera at the country level and where the debates around disease prevention center. Understanding the intersections between global policy and country concerns helps tailor my work better to ensure that potential grantmaking doesn’t neglect either.

Amazingly (to me) social media is now important to my work; offering a larger, more comprehensive picture of cholera outbreaks and a way to communicate about cholera and other diseases to people around the world. The more we know, in real time, about where cholera is appearing, the better we can fight it…

Previously: Tracking sales of over-the-counter medicines to predict disease outbreaks

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