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Promoting Health Literacy in India Through Social Networks: Opportunities and Challenges

Narang Sangeeta1,,*, Shukla Archana2, Sen B K3 1National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre and Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi-110029 2Assistant Professor, Library and Information Science, School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi-110067 Email: 3Chairman, Bibliometrics Expert Committee, Department of Science and Technology, Member, Research Council, History of Science, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, Email: *Corresponding Author Email: Abstract Health literacy is a person's ability to access, understand, communicate and apply health-related information wisely. Social media service platforms are gaining popularity in connecting, informing, educating and disseminating information to online communities on varied aspects. In health care sector, the WHO, NLM, NHS and various other organizations are providing information globally to people on health and safety issues, health education programmes, etc. through social networks like Facebook and YouTube. This paper reviews relevant literature available on the Google Scholar and the PubMed database on Health Literacy and Social Networks. It also surveys the websites of top ten medical institutions of the world and top ten medical colleges of India to find out their acceptance of social media tools. It is observed that in India social media tools and their adoption by medical colleges have not been exploited much in comparison with the top ten medical institutions of the world and our literature on health literacy is scanty. Considering India's large population, low health literacy, woeful shortage of doctors in rural areas, language and communication barriers, and so on it is suggested that the medical institutions must incorporate social media tools on their websites and promote health literacy-based education. This will connect health professionals with communities and thereby promote health literacy. The need for well-designed social network policies at every medical institution and creation of guides, tutorials and mobile applications has been stressed. These will help people to understand health terminologies and concepts as well as causes, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in general. Risks associated with the health information quality on social networks have also been addressed.



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