Facebook's new health tool will remind you to get preventive care

Grant Boone
October 30, 2019

Test results won't be given to Facebook or the health organizations working with Facebook, the company said in a news release.

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Almost two years after Facebook edged away from news delivery in favor of more personal content, the company is now ...

Facebook cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found tens of millions of people in the USA are missing out on recommended precautionary care. Facebook will also be promoting the tool in users' News Feeds and allow people to share it with their family and friends.

"The tool allows people to mark when tests are completed, set reminders to schedule future tests and tell loved ones about the tool to increase awareness of preventive care". You can set reminders for checkups, which display the type of test or procedure as well as the date and time, but Facebook will never see actual test results, nor will advertisers.

In September, a new feature rolled out on Facebook and Instagram to combat the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation.

Facebook said it is working with United States health organisations in order to offer a new Preventive Health tool that 'connects people to health resources and checkup reminders.' Facebook's primary focus will remain on heart disease and cancer, which, according to CDC, are two leading causes of death in the US.

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Some background: This isn't Facebook's first foray into health: it has a feature that helps people sign up as blood donors which has been used by more than 50 million people so far, it said. Your activity when you use the tool also won't be shared to health insurance companies or other third-parties, the social network said. Facebook, however, remains a target of antitrust investigations - and stepping into the world of health care, even gently, is bound to catch people's attention.

The data will be secure with access restricted to a group of people working on the product and maintaining the system, Facebook said.

Dr. Freddy Abnousi, Facebook's head of health care research, said in an interview that the tool is meant to amplify the message of health experts who are encouraging people to get preventive care.

An instrument like the Preventive Health tool could help someone like Abnousi's father manage their cardiovascular health care with blood pressure screenings, for instance. The American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recognized for their education and expertise in these areas, provide all the resources for the tool to work properly.

In the future, there is a possibility that the Preventive Health tool could expand to other countries and include more resources on preventive care outside of cardiovascular health, cancer and seasonal illness - but for now, Abnousi said they want to make sure that the tool as-is reaches an audience.

If every person in the U.S. received the recommended preventive care, more than 100,000 lives could be saved annually, according to the CDC. Users can see where services are available free of charge with insurance coverage, and Facebook will direct users in need toward federally qualified health centers to obtain affordable care.

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