Social Health – How do we define it and why does it matter?

Historically, Social Health has described the overall state of well-being for societies and the individuals who live and participate in them – a sociological yard stick for measuring how people interact with each other within the moral, legal and communal rules and regulations that govern the societies in which they live.

This is the age-old definition, one that will never lose its place in the dialogue, but one that is uniquely positioned to evolve with the ubiquitous use of the Internet and the proliferation of social networks, applications and even social movements on the Web.

At EmpowHER we describe Social Health as a 21st century movement where health care practitioners and providers, health and wellness brands, and consumers are coming together using social media tools and social networking platforms to improve health, change and save lives. We define Social Health as health and wellness by the people, for the people.

This extends beyond just patient empowerment or even patient advocacy. Let’s face it, not all of us are “patients”. An increasingly large number of people are healthy and well, with no chronic or acute diseases to manage, just a healthy lifestyle to maintain.

At EmpowHER we have learned a lot about the tens of millions of female health consumers who come to us every year for answers to their health questions.  They visit our peer health community to join women like them, and consume advocacy resources that help them take charge of their own health and wellness. In fact nearly a hundred thousand have asked a question, shared a story or made a comment on a relevant bit of news.

All of this social health sharing has taught us that we serve three health personas:  “Be Well” (prevention), “Get Well” (need help), and “Stay Well” (health maintenance).

What else have we learned? Women share, especially when it comes to their health, or the health of a loved one. They are the consummate connectors of information and resources for each other. We know 9 out of 10 women will take health and wellness advice from a peer. This sharing, what we desbribe at as “peer health”, underscores our definition of Social Health.

Industry luminary Susannah Fox from Pew speaks directly to this in her Summer 2011 lecture with the NIH – “Peer-to-peer healthcare acknowledges that patients and caregivers know things — about themselves, about each other, about treatments — and they want to share what they know to help other people. Technology helps to surface and organize that knowledge to make it useful for as many people as possible.”

Every day we work to create a world-class social health platform for women and their families. One where they can come to find the help, validation, support and resources they need to live their healthiest, best lives. One where they can take charge of their own health, become a better partner with their providers and caregivers, one where they can drive their own health and wellness. It is empowering health – socially.