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Study highlights social media's potential as a public-health tool

We've written before about the use of social media to raise awareness about health-related issues or bring people together for a common cause. Today's Health Care Communication News offers a look at a recent study that adds evidence to the power of social media as a public-health tool. In the study, Johns Hopkins University researchers showed how Facebook, after offering users a way to share their organ-donor status and adding links to make it easy to sign up as a donor, saw a 21.2-fold increase in new online donor registrations in one day.

From the article:

“It’s the power of social networking as a source for public good,” said study leader Dr. Andrew Cameron, a transplant surgeon and Johns Hopkins University associate professor of surgery.

There certainly is a need for organ donors. According to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are about 120,000 people on organ waiting lists, and 96,000 are waiting for kidneys alone. The Johns Hopkins University researchers said average daily organ donor registrations total 616 nationwide.

It is a great gift to sign up as an organ donor in the event of death, no doubt. But now the power of social networks, including Facebook, can help increase the number of live organ donations, like giving a kidney to a friend or relative.

“In that area, it will be a game changer,” said David Fleming, CEO of Donate Life America, which is based in Richmond, Va.

Previously: Using Facebook to prevent HIV among at-risk groupsCan social media improve the mental health of disaster survivors?, Facebook may grant researchers access to study data, Recognizing mental health problems through FacebookFacebook application aims to raise awareness, prevent cervical cancer and Stanford faculty and students launch social media campaign to expand bone marrow donor registry 

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