No need to be shy! Making Public Health teaching social!


I love social media. I love to use it both personally and professionally (and I am keeping the two separate). I have also been known to bug my work colleagues and professors to start using social media themselves wearing their professional hats. My endeavours have not been met with much success (yet) but I am not giving up! Perhaps this post will help!

There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense to use social media in Public Health: dissemination of research findings, staying up to date with latest news, networking with colleagues, taking part in useful discussions and -why not?- having some fun. For a very thorough and well done review on the use of social media in public health communication I highly recommend reading this report by Nina Bjerglund as found in her Public Health Science Communication 2.0 blog (which happens to be one of our favourite blogs).

In this blog post, I would like to focus on using social media in Public Health teaching. I don’t teach myself but -for some reason- I am fascinated by the use of less “traditional” means for teaching. I have blogged in the past about the use of games in public health teaching (updated here) and also had some existential questions about the use of social media in public health in general. But what about actively using social media for teaching public health students? Does anyone do it? How does it work?

I started by posing a simple question on twitter:

I was happy to receive some replies (who isn’t? ), especially since they came from people whose work in public health I admire

Antoine Flahaul, Professor of Medicine in Biostatistics at Université de Paris Descartes and former Dean of Sorbonne Paris Cité was the first one to reply:

I was not surprised. Professor Flahault is active on twitter and also regularly blogs since 2007! In this blog post he describes how he has used twitter during epidemiology lectures: In a lecture room with almost 200 students he asked them to reply to specific questions using twitter. The students’ tweets appeared real-time in the projection screen behind him. During 6 lectures (and 12 hours of teaching) he received a total of 732 tweets which adds up to 61 replies per hour. And he rightly wonders: “How could I ever have enabled nearly 200 people gathered together in a lecture hall to take part to this extent?”

Leah Roman, Public Health consultant and owner of perhaps my all-time favourite Public Health blog was also kind enough to reply

The idea is simple: asking students to tweet before and during lecture, using the class name for a hashtag. I am curious to see how this went and I will update this blog post when I find out!

Other Public Health lecturers, like Nedra Weinreich,  also try to make their students use twitter in- and outside the classroom:


Using a hashtag with the course name is also the way Yuri Feito is working with his students:

Yuri has also written something on the subject and is trying to motivate his students on using other social media (like blogging, in response to our invitation for blog posts) by giving them extra credits for that. Perhaps the most well-known example of formally  using social media in Public Health teaching is the Mind the Science Gap blog, where MPH students from the University of Michigan blog once per week for ten weeks, as part of a course.

Are you convinced to start using social media for your public health (and not only) teaching yet? No? Perhaps reading this might help. Or you’d rather see  some peer-reviews studies on it. Leah Roman has been very helpful and sent me the links to a paper on using blogs and wikis in a graduate public health course and using seminar blogs in a large public health course. I have also found a study assessing the integration of Youtube into the Public Health curriculum at the University of Missouri, as well as a report from the ECAR National study of students and Information Technology in Higher Education that found that students prefer and report learning more in classes with online components. Finally, you can read a literature review and case study on the integration of Social Media into public health courses  from Tufts University (which also provides a certificate in Digital Health Communication – thanks Lisa Gualtieri !)

Finally, if you feel ready to give it a go but do not feel so confident in how to do it, there is hope! Take the Social MEDia Course, which focuses on medicine and social media for medical and public health students. It is “based on the elective course that is part of the official medical curriculum at the University of Debrecen, Medical and Health Sciences Center and the Semmelweis Medical School of Budapest, Hungary” and offers different online modules covering different social media. I found out about this course from Nina Bjerglund. I have not taken it myself, but she has and you can read about her experience here

I am looking forward to read your thought on the subject! Have you ever used Social Media for (Public Health) teaching? Have you considered using it? What motivates you? What makes you reluctant? Share your thoughts!


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Nina Bjerglund

Thanks for a great blog post full of useful links!

I think I feel a bit like you when it comes to teaching. I wasn’t quite ready to integrate it into my own course in Public Health Science Communication ( and instead just get familiar with traditional teaching means. I even had a module on the role of social media, but did not integrate it into my teaching.

Inspired by the course Social Media in Health & Medicine at University of British Colombia ( who used a course wiki to refine the course ( I was actually considering integrating a similar wiki page into my teaching. My idea was to work together with the students to set up a wiki entry for Public Health Science Communication (which didn’t exist). In the end I didn’t implement my idea, but I liked the idea to use a collaborative tool like wikis to involve the students.

I also like the idea of using blogs in the teaching. The advantage of social media is that it makes it possible to engage the students more actively – not just engaging them with me (the teacher) but also with their fellow students and ultimately also with the ‘outside world’.

Thanks for collecting all of this and inspiring me to rethink my own integration of social media into public health teaching.


Useing social media in public health is direct to public health including dental health. As we know, most of people don’t care oral health, but recent years study prove that oral health is related with body health closly, so we should make use of social media to emphasize dental health.

thomy tonia

@nina: thank you so much for your comment and the useful links! enganging in multiple ways is also what i like with social media. opens new world, me thinks!