Questioning Facebook’s foray into preventive health

A new health care feature from Facebook called “Preventive Health” is aimed at encouraging users to get recommended screenings like mammograms and blood pressure tests, and to focus on other disease-preventing measures like getting a flu shot. But it remains to be seen whether the new feature will help boost health, according to experts.

In a November 4, 2019 Mashable article, Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted that while Facebook has the ability to reach millions of users, the success of its public health campaign depends on other factors as well. For example, campaign messaging and mechanisms should be well-suited to their target populations. And even good messaging may not make a difference if people can’t get time off of work to get to clinics.

“If I’m a single parent, working one job or two jobs or with limited transportation, [and] I’m faced with multiple demands on my time, you can provide me all the information you want, but at the end of the day, that still doesn’t solve my problem,” he said.

People may also be reluctant to share their health data with Facebook. “I don’t think Facebook has acquitted itself very well, in terms of protecting privacy, given their history and their reluctance to admit their problems,” Viswanath said. “Over time, to me, it is an empirical question, to see how this will work out and see if it really makes a big difference.”

Read the Mashable article: Facebook Is The Latest Tech Company To Half-Ass Its Way Into Healthcare