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Social networks and health….are we missing a trick?.

by ndubuisi edeoga

Despite all the best efforts of modern medicine, the cost of medical care keeps rising, for those who can afford it, and the quality of care keeps falling for those who cannot. What a paradox.

One simple fix to this rising cost is to improve our efforts at preventive care….Or NOT so simple!

The Internet today offers us the opportunity to get a good chunk of our medical information at minimal costs.  Several sites exist that try to fill this niche…,,,, to name a few. Most people will argue about the content, veracity, and usefulness of internet sites, all very valid arguments. Sometimes the information is not organised in a way that makes it easily accessible or usable. Some of it is of unknown validity…but at the very basic level …there is a lot out there.

The rise of social networks like Facebook, Myspace, and twitter, adds another dimension to information access. These sites literally come to you with information (no need to go to…), via regular updates. Every day I get a new invitation to be a “friend” from people I have known from all over Nigeria. Old and young, Real friends and ex foes. School mates, soul mates…and “kporapos”…

Maybe …we could all do more in using this medium to remind our loved ones on the things that matter so much ..the things we always push off to the next day.

Imagine… instead of sending a poke, or a pillow, or another message of who won the weekend’s soccer game…you send a friend a reminder to go get their blood pressure, fasting blood glucose of cholesterol checked….

The viral use and wide spread acceptance of social media affords the medical community an opportunity to tap into this resource. This is even more important in developing countries like Nigeria. I did a recent count of all my friends and it seems to me that “Every Nigerian” (emphasis all mine) is on Facebook. Well not quite, but you get what I mean. While we wait for the hospitals to be built, while we wait for the new health minister to settle in, lets help ourselves and be our brothers/sisters keepers.

The next time you get a birthday reminder, or a poke, poke them back with a reminder about getting their blood pressure checked, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, annual eye exam, colonoscopy for people above 50 years, and all the good stuff recommended by the preventive health agencies.

That way you are helping ensure that they stay around for their next birthdays.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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