Facebook is now encouraging their 161 million users in the United States to utilize their Facebook page for more than creating status updates, posting pictures of their lunch/baby/cat/vacation, stalking their ex’s and keeping up with the latest in the news. Now, members can use the social media site to make advances in public health. On May 1, 2013 Facebook, led by founder Mark Zuckerberg, launched an initiative encouraging their users to register to be organ donors on their own Facebook page.
The tool, which appears on user’s timelines, allows people to click on an ‘I decided to be an organ donor’ link, indicate the state and country that they live in, and even add a story about why they chose to become a donor. Additionally, a Facebook user will see a ‘Share Your Donor Status’ link when a friend’s donor update hits their news feed. The Facebook page also includes links to Donate Life America for people to become official donors. This is important as going through an online state registry means signing a legal agreement, unlike the Facebook pledge.
Facebook has not historically officially partnered with major public health initiatives, but this move could mark the dawn of a new era for the social media giant who is laden with self-reported data that could be invaluable to the public health community. The concept is based on the idea that sharing your organ donor status online will remind others to sign up, who will in turn encourage their friends to do the same. It’s a domino-effect method of promoting organ donation.
And the best part of this initiative? Early reports indicate that it is working. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the Living Legacy Foundation and Donate Life America who studied the site’s rollout, on the first day of the initiative there were 13,012 new online donor registrations across the 44 states the study authors analyzed–that’s a 21.2-fold increase over the usual daily registration of 616. The total number of new registrations during the study period reached nearly 40,000.
Finding more organ donors is crucial. According to OrganDonor.gov, more than 118,000 people in the United States are currently awaiting organ donations; 18 of them die every day because they did not receive the donation that they needed.
So, what do you think? Will the increased levels of organ donation maintain or lose momentum? What other public health initiatives (if any) should Facebook pursue?
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