Facebook and Leading Health Organizations Form Alliance for Advancing Health Online

By Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health

Facebook is partnering with leaders from the technology, healthcare, global development and academic sectors to establish the Alliance for Advancing Health Online. This new initiative aims to advance public understanding of how social media and behavioral sciences can be leveraged to improve the health of communities around the world. 

The partners of the Alliance include the Bay Area Global Health Alliance, the CDC Foundation, Facebook, the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Merck, Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Merck and Facebook are each committing $20 million to this multi-year initiative, which will initially focus on addressing vaccine hesitancy and vaccine equity among underserved communities. 

“Social media is a powerful, constantly evolving tool that is shaping opinions and behaviors across the globe,” said Heidi Larson, PhD, head of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The Alliance will help us build a deeper understanding of the dynamics of health communication online and how the global community can use social media to improve health.”

Launch of Independent Research Fund

The Alliance has established the Vaccine Confidence Fund, an independent fund to support research on how social media and online platforms can best support confidence in and access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world, as well as routine immunizations impacted by the pandemic. The goal of this initial research is to produce timely, practical applications, focused on reaching historically underserved communities and those communities particularly at risk in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Fund will provide grants to researchers and organizations that are exploring how best to use behavioral science, social media and digital platforms to build confidence in and access to vaccines. Global Impact, which will manage this fund on behalf of the Alliance, has issued a request for proposals. Researchers who would like to participate in this effort can apply here

All of the findings generated through this research will be shared quickly, broadly and publicly. To this end, Facebook is awarding grants to the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Bay Area Global Health Alliance who will facilitate a series of community discussions over the coming months. 

Impact of Global Health Campaigns

Together with partners, we’ve seen promising results from our health work over the past few years. This highlights the Alliance’s opportunity to better understand what’s working, so it can be replicated and scaled.

“The Alliance for Advancing Health Online and the new Vaccine Confidence Fund are important steps forward in leveraging social media for health impact at scale. A recent collaboration between WHO and Facebook demonstrated what this can achieve. WHO’s Science Behind Vaccines campaign ran globally, resonating most among Spanish and Chinese speaking audiences who expressed an increased willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine by 2.8 and 2.9 percentage points, respectively, across more than 50 million people.” – Andy Pattison, Team Lead, Digital Channels, WHO

Here are some additional results we’ve seen:

  • UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance partnered to increase confidence in routine childhood vaccination services and encourage parents to vaccinate their children during COVID-19 in Indonesia. People on Facebook aged 18-50, or about 50% of the population, in three Indonesian provinces were reached with ads from UNICEF over five weeks and reached over 6 million people. The campaign led to 4.3% improvement in people’s perception of the safety of vaccination during the global pandemic.
  • Team Halo Brazil ran an ad campaign on Facebook that featured local scientists and doctors addressing popular concerns and specific questions about the importance, safety and development of COVID-19 vaccines to young adults (ages 25-34). This campaign increased the perception that the vaccine is effective by 2.8%, across more than 4 million people.
  • Girl Effect and Gavi ran a Facebook ad campaign to help improve perceptions of childhood vaccination among young women likely to be mothers in India’s Hindi belt. Over 3 months, Girl Effect reported that the campaign reached 7.1 million young women and led to a 3.8% increase in perceptions that vaccines protect children from life-threatening diseases. 
  • Over 150 health organizations are using WhatsApp to share vaccine information and tackle misinformation. People can use WhatsApp to find out whether or not they are eligible for the vaccine, find the nearest vaccine center, register for the vaccine, and get reminders for their shots — all in their local language, available 24 hours a day. In Indonesia, 500,000 medical workers registered for their vaccine over WhatsApp in just 5 days, and nearly 4 billion messages have been sent over COVID-19 helplines to date.
  • The rollout of our Blood Donations tool, which increases access to information about nearby donation opportunities and how to book an appointment, was associated with a 19% increase in first time donors at participating partner sites across the United States. In Brazil and India, the share of donors at blood banks who both received a message from the tool and stated they were influenced by Facebook to donate blood increased from 0% to 14% in the first year.

At the same time, we recognize that more research and understanding is needed to replicate and scale the approaches that work, and to learn from those that do not. By bringing together public and private sector partners, we hope the Alliance will accelerate our collective ability to have a lasting positive impact on health behavior through leveraging the unique scale and personalization of digital channels.



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