When I was home in Cincinnati over the summer, an interesting news article in the Cincinnati Enquirer caught my attention. The link is http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20090827/NEWS01/308270044/. It described how Cincinnati and Hamilton County health departments are using the new technologies of social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, to inform people about public health issues (such as swine flu). Since I hope to become a medical researcher, I have a strong interest learning about how new technolgies and communications systems impact healthcare. I think the article describes one of the major benefits of social networks as being the ability to instantaneously send important, up-to-date information to thousands of people. It allows public health officials to keep everyone updated as new problems or solutions (such as the distribution of H1N1 vaccines) occurs. However, a possible negative aspect with the instant messages could be widespread panic. Twitter messages could be misinterpreted, causing large populations to worry about an unrealistic medical threat. Similarly, many people do not have access to Twitter. For example, neither of my parents has a Twitter or Facebook account. Many people would remain uninformed about critical health issues if public health departments only publicized through digital media social networking sites. What do you think about Twitter as a public health tool? Do you think that public health will be able to rely solely on social networks to share information in the future, or should health communications rely on multiple forms of publicity (like open forums and newspaper articles)?