A few students from the Medill School of Journalism have recently been providing us with their thoughts on oncofertility. Zara Huasini gives us her second post here on the intersection of oncofertility and social media. Read her first blog, Increased Awareness Could Save Fertility of Cancer Patients.
By Zara Husaini
If you enter a health concern into your Google search bar, I can almost guarantee that something will materialize. Whether your query is expected (“do menstrual cramps hurt?”) or more outrageous, something will probably turn up. For example: a few years ago I had a strange reaction to the piercing in my nose, and after a reading a particularly gruesome Yahoo! Answers thread, I was convinced that I’d wind up with a huge hole in my nose for the rest of my life.
It makes sense that people turn to the Internet about their most pressing concerns – it’s a safe way to gather information about things we’re not ready to discuss with anyone, not even a doctor. The problem with this system is, misinformation abounds.
Northwestern University’s Oncofertility Consortium is doing its part to replace false information with real, verified medical fact.
“The Oncofertility Consortium only posts information that it believes is correct and authoritative. We work with the scientists and clinicians as needed to monitor and provide content for the oncofertility blog,” said program manager Angie Krausfeldt.
According to Krausfeldt, “Social media plays a significant role in breaking down barriers to communication and dispelling false or inadequate information.”
I think it’s important for medical experts to become more proactive in informing the public about about the health issues that they face. To me, the use of social media seems like the most current, effective way of doing this.
“I think that blogging and social media are a key outlet for keeping the public informed,” said Meredith Wise, a Northwestern University student.
Wise, who blogs for the Consortium, said: “it’s great that we have social media to use because in the past, most people got their health issue from their doctors or brochures they picked up when they had an appointment. We only go to the doctor every once in a while, so social media is a great way to reach people every day. I think Twitter is an especially great tool because everyone in the health community has lots of connections with each other there, and they can all help each other reach a broader audience and spread the word about health issues.”
If more medical professionals and organizations begin to spread accurate information via social media, it could diminish some of the anxiety that we experience when we just can’t make it to the doctor’s office and just can’t make sense of the symptoms that we’re experiencing.
The Oncofertility Consortium’s efforts should be commended and appreciated. The staff is shedding light on an important issue that not everyone is aware of, encouraging discussion and clearing up some of the misinformation that exists all over the Internet.