[This article was originally published in Nursing Leadership, 30(2)]
In the province of Ontario, many of the public health units (PHUs) now possess and use social media as part of their daily health promotion and communication operations. To explore this topic, a planning meeting was held to generate deeper insights toward the use of these forms of technology for preventative services delivery. The planning meeting was held with 50 participants, comprising representatives from 20 of the 36 PHUs in Ontario, interested academics, students and government representatives. A nominal group technique (NGT) was used to build consensus related to future research needs, as related to public health and social media. Participants generated a range of insights around the use of social media, including the need for: leadership buy-in and resource allocation; social media policy and governance structure; performance measurement and evaluation; practices related to engagement with program recipients and addressing the lack of resources faced by many health units. Future research priorities were also generated, related to evaluating the cost-benefit of social media activities and understanding behaviour change implications. Further research is needed to evaluate the functionality, leadership and competency requirements and impact(s) of these new forms of health communication technology within public health service delivery.
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