Social media can enhance education and improve health

FEELING guilty about the amount of time you're spending on social media sites like Twitter? Well, you shouldn't - turns out it could be good for your health.

Australian researchers have found Twitter is a powerful tool in preventing heart disease and improving health practices.

A University of Sydney study found social media sites, with their broad networking capabilities, had the potential to enhance education, awareness and overall management of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, surveyed 15 international health-focused Twitter accounts, nine professional organisations and six medical journals, which were selected for analysis of their Twitter growth, reach, and content.

Lead author, Associate Professor Julie Redfern, said the researchers examined the reach of health-related Tweets via the re-tweeting trend.

Ass Prof Redfern said a growing number of health professionals had started using social media to share information in recent years.

She pointed to a survey of 485 oncologists and physicians that showed 24% used social media at least daily to scan or explore medical information.

"The popularity and rise of Twitter has made it a readily available, free, and user-friendly tool to disseminate information rapidly to a diverse audience, for example, to engage health professionals and heart attack survivors," she said.

"We noted that Twitter is becoming increasingly popular where Tweets often include links to more detailed health information via story links, websites and photographs."

The 15 Twitter accounts surveyed had a total of 674,787 followers in October 2011 and 1,318,601 followers one year later.

And 10 of the 15 accounts experienced growth in followers of more than 50% individually.

Several accounts achieved a re-tweet from a user with a large number of followers.

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