Develop Your Core Competencies with Social Media

Photo Credit: CSaila

Digital communication tools  are changing the way public health professionals inform and correspond with folks in their communities. In the last decade, we began having fewer face-to-face interactions and more Facebook conversations. Instead of talking, we’re “tweeting.” In fact, 80% of Internet users have looked online for information about any of 15 health topics such as a specific disease or treatment. This translates to 59% of all adults. Online health information is abundant but often unfiltered; facts and misinformation are both readily available. Accurate information can be diluted or lost given all the millions of data resulting from a Google or YouTube search. Doesn’t anyone come to our own department of health or county government websites, anymore?

Source: PEW Internet “The Social Life of Health Information, 2011”

As part of your mentorship experience, we encourage you to discuss the use of digital communication tools in your mentor-mentee meetings. How have these online tools changed or enhanced the way public health information is disseminated? Where can we learn more about these tools so we can appropriately include (or exclude) them from our communication approaches?

Keep in mind, these discussions can help develop your knowledge and abilities within the “Communication Skills” domain under the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals. Increasing your understanding of these popular social media tools will help you to “communicate with linguistic and cultural proficiency” – a competency worth strengthening regardless of your level or experience within the public health profession (Tier 1, 2, 3).

One place to learn more is the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s)  website which showcases their use of the following social media tools:

  • Blogs
  • Buttons & Badges
  • Content Syndication
  • eCards
  • Email Updates
  • Facebook
  • Image Sharing
  • Infographics
  • LinkedIn
  • Mobile
  • Online Video
  • Podcasts
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Widgets

The CDC’s website also includes extensive resources related to social media tools, guidelines, and best practices to help individual public health professionals, organizations, and departments to plan, develop, and implement social media strategies.

Photo Credit: University of Michigan Library

Want to learn more about social media for public health AND get continue education credit, too? (After all, OMP participants do have to complete 3 contact hours of professional development). Michigan Public Health Training Center also has an online course called “Social Media Tools” (for 2 CHES category credits or 2 contact hours) in which participants learn how to identify major social media tools currently being used in public health programs and begin using several of the top social media tools to communicate with others.

If you haven’t already, watch the presentation on “40 Things Public Health Professionals Need to Know about LinkedIn” too!

Perhaps you’re thinking: “what good is this information if our department or organization does not allow the use of social media in the office?” Well, you are not alone. Many government organizations still do not have an official social media strategy in place. But discussions regarding the applications of social media are very prevalent. The more informed you are about this topic, the more you can contribute to the discussion as it relates to your department or organization. And when the time comes to launch an informed strategy, your social media efforts are guaranteed to be more successful.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, please post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator at


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