Trending now: future directions in digital media for the public health sector

J Public Health (Oxf). 2014 Dec;36(4):527-34. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdt125. Epub 2014 Jan 26.


Background: Digital media usage is expanding enormously and is starting to be used as a public health intervention and communication tool. It has an ability to increase the reach of public health research and communication, as well as drive measurable behaviour change. But there is an absence of both deep and wide understanding of the opportunities within digital media, i.e. most people think only of Facebook and Twitter when they think of social media; smart, strategic planning for its widespread use is not common practice and rigorous evaluative studies of its effectiveness are few and far between.

Methods: This paper analyses the published literature on this topic and identifies the top 10 directions that use of digital media is likely to take in the medium term.

Results: The analysis strongly supports the position that digital media needs to be taken seriously as a vehicle for public health activity in its own right and not merely as an adjunct to other campaigns.

Conclusions: Digital media will continue to develop and move from being an add-on to existing activity to being the major vehicle for significant elements of research, data collection and advocacy. It is important that public health leaders fully understand and engage in its development and use.

Keywords: digital media; health care; health sector; mobile media; public health; social media.

MeSH terms

  • Health Education / methods
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Peer Review
  • Public Health* / education
  • Public Health* / methods
  • Social Media*