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The public is increasingly using non-traditional sources for news and information, including medical and public health-related information. Although only 23% currently read printed newspapers (down from twice that in 20001), three-quarters report using online sources for health information,2 ,3 and half of American smartphone users have obtained health-related information via their phone.3 Common sources of information include websites, social networking sites (including Facebook and Twitter) and YouTube. This ‘public scholarship’ has a huge potential impact on public health, particularly day-to-day preventive actions.4
Unfortunately, the reliability of existing online information sources is not assured and few public health practitioners currently maximise the potential of these non-traditional sources.5 ,6 The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, has developed some very effective social media campaigns7 ,8 and a handful of injury prevention centres (eg, Johns Hopkins, Emory, West Virginia, USA) are actively engaged in social media. However, although most US state health departments have Twitter or Facebook accounts, very few maximise the potential …
Contributors DH and MLR conceived of the idea, wrote the initial draft together and approved the final version.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.