This timetabling challenge set aside, I was acutely aware how little occurred online. It seemed that the majority of the activities on social media were carried out by a small group of very dedicated HF advocates across Europe – most notably Pumping Marvellous Foundation, iHHub and the HF Policy Network Members. As people across the globe, particularly the young, [ii] increasingly get their news and live their lives online, I find the lack of HF Awareness Day activity on social media from some of the biggest and most influential actors unfathomable. Awareness Day activities, be it for HF or any other health area, must be able to engage confidently with concise and interesting content online. A greater presence of HF online will make a great move towards increasing the awareness of this often forgotten disease.
Social media activism and awareness raising activities often receive a significant amount of criticism – some campaigns deserve criticism and others less so. Certain social media health awareness campaigns provide little more than lip-service to a cause and with little in the way of information on the topic or any way where people can find out more, for example, changing the colour of a profile picture does not necessarily inform others about a cause. Without a way of linking the action on social media with information, it is difficult know what the new found ‘awareness’ actually is within the individual.
Yet, there are examples of fantastic campaigns which demonstrate how social media can reach a vast number of people in a short amount of time. Even a small show of support, such as the sharing of a simple graphic in enough numbers, can even help shift cultural norms.[iii] In our HF Awareness Day Campaign, we tried to always include evidence based suggestions and hard facts to engage and be shared on twitter. The most well received tweets were almost always graphical content which is easily shareable and contained interesting and sometimes shocking facts about HF.
Looking towards our next milestones, it is important to understand the remit of the HF Policy Network that awareness of the condition is necessary to drive policy change. Social media is a key part of the puzzle when trying to bring about greater awareness of HF at all levels of the healthcare continuum, from policy makers to the general public, who all have a part to play in the policy process. But it is vital that these different groups work together and mutually re-enforce activities to increase awareness of HF overall – which should be the ultimate goal. With greater leadership, oversight and cohesion we will #changeHFpolicy.
[i] Remme WJ, McMurray JJ, Rauch B, et al. Public awareness of heart failure in Europe: first results from SHAPE. European heart journal 2005;26(22):2413-21.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Health Policy Partnership.