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How a TikTok ban will impact healthcare

TikTok is home to healthcare content creators and healthcare orgs looking to share health information. How will the ban impact their work?
By admin
Mar 13, 2024, 4:08 PM

Early Wednesday, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that requires TikTok to separate from its China-based parent company, ByteDance. If it doesn’t, tech companies like Apple and Google will be prohibited from providing web-hosting services to apps under control of ByteDance.  

Though President Biden said he would sign the bill, whether we have a TikTok ban or not rests in the hands of the Senate for now. A ban on the cultural behemoth will be felt across many fields, including healthcare, where content creators, healthcare organizations, and laymen alike have leveraged the social media platform’s popularity to talk about health and healthcare. 

One institution in particular, the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, has turned to social media platforms like TikTok to combat health misinformation, rebuild trust in public institutions, attract patients and even improve health equity. 

“Social media creators are watched and trusted by millions. Our research shows that they can play a role in making sure that all people, everywhere have access to the health information they want and need,” said Amanda Yarnell, Senior Director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard Chan School of Public Health told DHI. “This is important because trust in institutions, including some public health has relied on to circulate health information, has fallen.”

Yarnell spearheads the Mental Health Creator Program, an initiative that aims to disseminate evidence-based mental health information by bringing together public health researchers and mental health content creators who have a presence on platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. 

“Consumers are increasingly getting news and information from platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Including health information,” Yarnell shared. “But these platforms are awash in both deliberate misinformation and anecdotal posts that aren’t grounded in science. And it’s hard for viewers to distinguish between sound and spurious advice.”

TikTok’s unique platform relies on a stream of short videos that range from silly to informative, that make it particularly useful for educating an audience while solidifying and sustaining relevancy of a brand. It also helps that the 150 million TikTok users in the U.S. spend nearly double the amount of time on TikTok than they do any other social media platform, for a total average of 82 minutes per day. 

Nearly 84% of TikTok users in the U.S. are millennial and Gen Z, with the majority (49.1%) of all users ranging from 18-34. About 26% of Millennials and 33% of Gen Z report using social media to talk about their health concerns and issues, according to data from Hall and Partners. 

Another survey found that 90% of Gen Z seek out medical advice on social media.

“Healthcare professionals are increasingly stepping into these spaces, to make sure that people find the health information they need on the platforms where they spend so much time. Those who are successful are adapting their message to the audience and platform: They use plain language, show their personality, and really listen to what their audiences want to know,” Yarnell shared. “They know they are engaging in conversation with fellow community members rather than simply broadcasting a message.”

If the ban passes, people seeking health information on social media can still turn to other popular sites like YouTube and Instagram but neither have the stronghold on the cultural zeitgeist that TikTok does right now.

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