Wednesday, February 18, 2009

US government uses online social media to manage salmonella outbreak

Online social media is becoming an important tool for governments to engage citizens during emergencies to rapidly disseminate information.

in fact it is even beginning to be credited with saving lives during health crises.

According to Nextgov,
Federal health agencies relied heavily on social media to inform the public about the recent outbreak of salmonella tainted peanut butter, possibly reducing the number of death and injuries caused by the illness, according to federal health officials.

Officials with Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said social media helped them spread the word that peanut butter recall. The agencies used widgets, blogs, Twitter, podcasts, mobile alerts and online videos to warn the public that peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corp. of America for institutional use and for additives in other products such as snacks may be tainted with salmonella. Eight people died and 500 were sickened by the infected peanut butter.

"The response has been really amazing," said Janice Nall, director of the division of eHealth marketing at CDC, on the public's reaction to her agency's social media campaign. "We look at social media as additional channels to reach people where they are."

The article, Agencies used social media to manage salmonella outbreak, goes on to say that agencies were surprised with the response, with the widget, designed for use in websites, blogs, Facebooks and MySpace, was accessed 1.4 million times in nine days.

We've begun to see similar use of tools such as Twitter and widgets in Australia at state government level, and hopefully the success of these tools will see greater use across all Australian governments.

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