50: Social Media Health Concerns

Stephanie Smiley, former state health officer for Wisconsin, examines the impact of social media on young people; Community COVID Coalition members release new social media animations to educate people ages 18 to 24 about vaccine safety; ASTHO CEO...

Stephanie Smiley, former state health officer for Wisconsin, examines the impact of social media on young people; Community COVID Coalition members release new social media animations to educate people ages 18 to 24 about vaccine safety; ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser and Chuck Ingoglia, CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, commit to working together to promote the wellbeing of public health workers in a new blog article; ASTHO President Elect Dr. Anne Zink says leaders need to be intentional with positive reinforcement; former ASTHO members Dr. Rachel Levine and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun get new jobs; and ASTHO is hiring for key positions.

Webpage: Community COVID Coalition Vaccine Social Media Assets

Webpage: Community COVID Coalition Research on Vaccines

ASTHO Blog Article: ASTHO and National Council for Mental Wellbeing Address Public Health Workers

ASTHO Podcast: Gratitude Amid Struggle – Celebrating Wins in the COVID-19 Response

Dr. Rachel Levine Sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Health

Webpage: CVS Health Names Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun as Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer

ASTHO Webpage: Careers

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, October 20th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


The powerful algorithms that attract young people to social media are under scrutiny again, thanks to a whistleblower's claim that platforms have little concern for the health and safety of children online.

Stephanie Smiley is the former state health officer for Wisconsin. She's talking about this in today's morning conversation.

How does social media impact the mental health of young people?


I think anytime you're talking about media of any kind, it's going to influence children.

As we know, there are certainly benefits to social media in terms of developing new friendships, social connectedness, opportunities for education sharing. But we also know that there's challenges here, too.

And the literature is actually somewhat mixed, related specifically to the potential impacts of social media and mental health. More study is needed here, but that doesn't mean we take a wait and see approach. As public health practitioners, we have seen the mental health numbers for youth, and they're going in the wrong direction,


Given that, what can state and territorial health departments do about it? Anything?


Well, you know, social media is not unlike traditional media in that the information, you know, it's curated for a particular target audience. It can be used to perpetuate, you know, unhealthy societal norms and behavior.

The difference, though, between social media and traditional forms of media is that it allows for like instant peer interaction and feedback. And we know, unfortunately, that bullying behaviors, they happen everywhere, but the access is greater online.

We also happen to have an entire generation of kids who are spending more time online and whose social lives depended on social media and communications technology during, in times of the pandemic, when folks were isolating at home.

And, you know, social media is not going away. So, this is only going to grow. It's only going to change and shape the lives of young people.

And so, we as public health practitioners have to continue to find ways to harness it for furthering good science and public health education, but also be aware of and talk about the risks, the health risks, involved for children and youth who spend much of their time online.

So, a quick Google search will tell you that there's not a whole lot out there on this, actually, for public health practitioners to take and use, you know, plug and play in their injury prevention and mental health programming.

You know, so, it's really important for us to continue to develop those evidence-based approaches for encouraging healthy social media use in youth. And we need to understand how we can also find ways to monitor and use these tools for mental health interventions.


Meanwhile, the Community COVID Coalition has released new social media animations to educate people ages 18 to 24 about vaccine safety. Messages include facts about vaccine development and ingredients.

ASTHO joined the CDC Foundation, the National Governor's Association, and the Association of Immunization Managers on the project.

Find links to the initial set of English and Spanish language assets and the research behind them in the show notes.


The mental health of people working in public health has suffered during the pandemic. Now, ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser and Chuck Ingoglia, CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, say their organizations will work together to acknowledge, address, and alleviate the stress facing public health professionals.

A recent CDC study revealed that more than half of all workers surveyed have suffered some mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicidal ideation.


Stress among public health workers make celebrating small victories at work even more important.

ASTHO's president elect, Dr. Anne Zink, speaking on a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast, says leaders need to be intentional with positive reinforcement.


I think it takes active work. I think, again, it's in the small things that you do, and it's also in the big things that you do.

I think just pausing and asking your team, you know, "Tell us a win for today," give a shout out to someone else who's in there, you see work that you may have missed.

So often, we come to our meetings and our efforts together, and we just share the problems because those are the things that we need to solve. But by pausing and making space for sharing the positives, you see ways that others were able to solve problems that maybe you have missed, and that will provide you new insight and new tools to be able to move forward.



ASTHO alumni are moving forward this week.

Dr. Rachel Levine takes the oath as the new Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while Dr. Joneigh Khaldun heads to the private sector, joining CVS Health as vice-president and chief health equity officer.

Levine led public health efforts for the state of Pennsylvania, Khaldun for Michigan.


Finally this morning, ASTHO is looking to fill three positions.

The organization has openings for an analyst in program operations, a coordinator in accounts payable, and a manager of distance learning.


Find a link to these ASTHO careers, along with links to the CEO's blog posts and the vaccine social media content, in the show notes.


Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

And, if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska

Stephanie Smiley

Director, American Academy of Pediatrics