Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Do you "Like" the Clayton County Board of Health?
Would you "Follow" its actions?
The local health board began to find out how people would respond to those questions late last week when it launched its new Facebook and Twitter pages. Through the two social media web sites, the group will be able to release information in a format that is a bit of an undiscovered territory for the department, said Clayton County Board of Health spokesman Joel Hall.
"Officially, it's the first time we've ever been on Facebook and Twitter," Hall said. "A lot of other agencies around the state, and at the national level, have been using social media web sites to reach out to their populations, and we wanted to follow suit."
Although the sites had been online for a little while, Hall explained that last Friday marked the official launch of the two social media web pages, located at www.twitter.com/CCBOH, and on www.facebook.com (type "Clayton County Board of Health" into the search engine to find the page).
Health department officials are encouraging people to click the "Follow" button on their Twitter page, and the "Like" button on their Facebook page.
Clayton County District Health Director Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, in a written statement, boasted that the social media web sites will provide the health departments with new methods to distribute information to county residents.
"The Board of Health's new Facebook and Twitter pages will offer the public a new way to interact with their local public health agency," Bryan said. "Many citizens are unaware of the work public health agencies do on a daily basis to maintain the health and safety of communities. Our Facebook and Twitter pages have the potential to inform, as well as save lives."
Hall said other health departments have shown, during recent disasters (such as several tornado strikes across the country), that social media web sites can be used by officials to coordinate emergency response efforts.
"In some recent disasters, social media was used by emergency response officials to locate a lot of victims, and coordinate the distribution of supplies," he explained.
Doug Dugger, the health board's director of emergency preparedness and response, explained one of the department's "important tasks" is to "educate the public, businesses, and community organizations on how to prepare for an emergency or disaster." In a written statement, he added that includes being able to release information, during a disaster, in a fast manner.
"We also must be able to get information to the community as quickly as possible in order to save lives and prevent more people from getting injured or sick," he said.
Hall said the department is having commercials for the new social media pages run before movies at the AMC Southlake 24 movie theater in Morrow (he added the commercial will also run every seven minutes at the theater's snack bar). He also said the department plans to soon begin running print advertisements for the sites in the Clayton News Daily, and the Hispanic newspaper, Mundo Hispanico.