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October 2017

Building Stronger Online Communities Through the Creation of Facebook-Integrated Health Applications

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Department of Radiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Division of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(10):933-934. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.2300

Facebook dominates the social media landscape. The platform is not only the largest form of social media, with more than 1.65 billion users averaging nearly 1 hour per day on the site, but also the only service that continues to demonstrate year-over-year growth.1 A 2012 consumer survey reported that, depending on age, 56% to 90% of adults would trust the health information that they receive through social media and engage in health-related activities and 45% to 80% would share their personal health data on these sites.2 On Facebook, users seek and share health information as part of their personal feed or within a Facebook group, which is defined as a site where individuals “come together around a common cause, issue, or activity to organize; express objectives; discuss issues; post photos; and share related content.”3 It is difficult to know the breadth of groups directed toward pediatric diseases and the degree to which members engage in these communities; however, large groups exist to support individuals with diseases of varying prevalence, such as cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, and biliary atresia. Facebook communities may be especially important for children with chronic diseases because these conditions are often rare and thus families may feel isolated and interested in identifying others with similar experiences and questions. For example, researchers have identified Facebook communities centered on rare diseases, such as congenital heart disease, hemophilia, and X-linked ichthyosis.4-6

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