Connecting People With Health Resources

Facebook is developing products and partnerships that can help people connect with resources to support their health. Today we’re sharing an update on some of this work, including a new Preventive Health tool in the US.

  • We’re working with US health organizations to offer a Preventive Health tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. 
  • People can use the tool to find affordable places to receive care, set reminders to schedule tests, mark when tests are completed, and more.

By Freddy Abnousi, MD, Head of Healthcare Research

Many of today’s leading health threats aren’t ones that science or medicine can solve alone. Changing trends in communication and unequal access to care mean we need new solutions and partnerships to overcome these global challenges.

Take the issue of blood shortages. Every few seconds, someone in the world needs blood. But people often aren’t aware of shortages and don’t know where to donate. To address this, we launched a feature in the US, India, Brazil, Bangladesh and Pakistan that makes it easy to sign up as a donor on Facebook and get notified when nearby blood banks are in need. So far, more than 50 million people have signed up to donate.

Another area we’re exploring is preventive health. Tens of millions of people in the US are missing out on recommended preventive care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventive measures have the potential to detect disease early when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, prevent it from developing. Yet factors such as awareness, access and cost create barriers to testing for many people.

To help, we’re working with US health organizations to offer a new Preventive Health tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. Our initial focus is on the top two leading causes of death in the US: heart disease and cancer, (according to CDC) as well as the flu, a seasonal illness that affects millions each year. The resources available in the tool are provided by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — organizations recognized for their education and expertise in these areas.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women around the world and in many cases it is 100% preventable. By incorporating prevention reminders into platforms people are accessing every day, we’re giving people the tools they need to be proactive about their heart health.” – Richard Kovacs, MD, President of the American College of Cardiology

How Preventive Health Works

In the US, people can search for Preventive Health in the Facebook mobile app and find out which checkups, such as cholesterol tests or mammograms, are recommended by these health organizations based on the age and sex they provide. Reminders for flu shots will also appear at the appropriate time of year. 

The tool allows people to mark when tests are completed, set reminders to schedule future tests and tell loved ones about the tool to increase awareness of preventive care. People can also learn more about each checkup and find affordable places to receive care.

“We’ve contributed our content and resources to the Facebook Preventive Health tool to empower Americans to take the first step to know about and take action to lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, each of which has been shown to increase the chance of a longer, healthier life and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.” – Eduardo Sanchez, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association

“One of the main reasons people don’t get screened for cancer is that they don’t realize their own risk. We hope this program will help by building awareness about important recommendations from expert organizations.” – Richard Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society

Most of the preventive measures recommended by the health organizations we’re working with, such as blood pressure tests, are free of charge with insurance coverage, but we know many people do not have insurance. To help people get affordable care, Preventive Health offers a way to find Federally Qualified Health Centers near them. These centers are located in underserved areas and provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

People can also use Preventive Health to find convenient locations that offer flu shots, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and urgent care clinics.

“Flu vaccines can have wide-ranging benefits beyond just preventing the disease, such as reducing the risk of hospitalization, preventing serious medical events for some people with chronic diseases, and protecting women during and after pregnancy. New tools like this will empower users with instant access to information and resources they need to become a flu fighter in their own communities.” – Nancy Messonnier, MD, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC

Over time, we’ll work with additional organizations to include more resources and expand to other countries.

Privacy Matters

Health is particularly personal, so we took privacy and safety into account from the beginning. For example, Preventive Health allows you to set reminders for your future checkups and mark them as done, but it doesn’t provide us, or the health organizations we’re working with, access to your actual test results. Personal information about your activity in Preventive Health is not shared with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility. 

We don’t show ads based on the information you provide in Preventive Health — that includes things like setting a reminder for a test, marking it as done or searching for a healthcare location. As always, other actions that you take on Facebook could inform the ads you see, for example, liking the Facebook page of a health organization or visiting an external website linked to from Preventive Health.

To learn more about Preventive Health and privacy, see this post.

Our Efforts Across Health

Preventive Health and Blood Donations are just two of the ways we can help people advocate for their own health and help others:

  • According to our blood bank partners in India and Brazil, 20% of voluntary, walk-in blood donors are coming from Facebook.
  • Disease Prevention Maps from Facebook help nonprofits and universities working in public health get ahead of disease outbreaks, plan vaccination campaigns and reach vulnerable communities more effectively.
  • People turn to health support groups on Facebook after being diagnosed with or while managing a health condition, to connect with others who have had similar health experiences and find information and support. 

We know there’s more we can do to help people, and we’ll continue to partner with organizations to provide access to resources and reach people in diverse communities.

More on Preventive Health:

American Cancer Society:

American College of Cardiology:

American Heart Association:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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