Twitter is a powerful tool in the prevention of heart disease, according to a group of University of Sydney researchers.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study surveyed 15 international health-based Twitter accounts, nine health organisations and six medical journals.
Their findings saw that, through networking, real-time social media sites like Twitter can increase education and awareness of health and cardiovascular disease.
The study’s lead author, Associate Professor Julie Redfern said the reach of these health-related Tweets was measured – especially via the re-tweet tool.
“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.
“In recent years, a growing number of health professionals have been using social media to share information. In a survey of 485 oncologists and physicians, 24 per cent used social media at least daily to scan or explore medical information.
“Exponential growth in Internet use and smart phone ownership has seen the rapid expansion of social media interfaces, such as Twitter, for rapid and global information sharing.
“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 findings convey the role of this emerging medium in disseminating information quickly – information that in some cases, is vital to prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The 15 Twitter accounts surveyed had a total of 674,787 followers in October 2011 and 1,318,601 followers one year later, representing a healthy mean increase of 57 per cent.
One example of the re-tweet trend taking off was from the New England Journal of Medicine, which had one health-related tweet, retweeted by a single user with 560,000 followers, thereby instantly widening the reach of the information prolifically.