New Role for Facebook: Monitor Obese People

Great.  Now that the world knows, thanks to the Web, that I fill my prescriptions at Walgreen's, buy my running shoes at New Balance, and order my Christmas flank steak from QVC, it's going to help me lose weight on Facebook.

That's right.  According to Health Works Collective, Johnson & Johnson will use Facebook to "monitor obesity prevalence."

Now no one I know would call me obese, so why am I getting this?  Most likely because I visit Weight Watchers' sites, but come on!

Quoting a recent study from PLOS ONE, J&J graduate fellow Stephen Shie writes that public health workers can use Facebook to survey the pervasiveness of obesity.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health "found that higher proportion of the population with activity-related interests on Facebook was associated with a significant lower predicted prevalence of obese and overweight people across the United States metro areas as well as across New York City neighborhoods," Shie reports at Health Works Collective.

So why didn't they get that I run every day?  Hmm....  It does seem pretty obvious that people who do a lot of exercise (and brag about it on Facebook)would most likely not be obese.

Shie encourages healthcare marketers to use Facebook for "its super power to target: users can be identified by specific demographic characteristics, geographic information and interests, offering marketers effective data to reach relevant audiences via a variety of Facebook tactics."

 Interventions can then can be customized and precisely delivered via Facebook, he adds. How about Facebook ads or “sponsored stories” about obesity prevention aimed at "communities at high risk of obesity."

And while we're at it, let monitor all Facebook activities in real-time.

Now, this isn't just to embarrass people but to provide valuable feedback for public health workers "to adjust interventions to maximize effects."  But I don't know about you.  The last thing I want to see on my Facebook page is a message from someone telling me how I can eat less!

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