Facebook partners to provide new preventive health tool

Nov. 1, 2019

Facebook is working with U.S. health organizations to offer a Preventive Health tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. People can use the tool to find affordable places to receive care, set reminders to schedule tests, mark when tests are completed, and more.

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are missing out on recommended preventive care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preventive measures have the potential to detect disease early when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, prevent it from developing. Yet factors such as awareness, access and cost create barriers to testing for many people.

Our initial focus is on the top two leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease and cancer, (according to the CDC) as well as the flu, a seasonal illness that affects millions each year. The resources available in the tool are provided by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the CDC — organizations recognized for their education and expertise in these areas.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women around the world and in many cases it is 100% preventable. By incorporating prevention reminders into platforms people are accessing every day, we’re giving people the tools they need to be proactive about their heart health,” stated Richard Kovacs, MD, President of the American College of Cardiology.

In the U.S., people can search for preventive health in the Facebook mobile app and find out which checkups, such as cholesterol tests or mammograms, are recommended by these health organizations based on the age and sex they provide. Reminders for flu shots will also appear at the appropriate time of year. 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. People can also learn more about each check-up and find affordable places to receive care.

“We’ve contributed our content and resources to the Facebook Preventive Health tool to empower Americans to take the first step to know about and take action to lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, each of which has been shown to increase the chance of a longer, healthier life and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke,” said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association.

Richard Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society, noted, “One of the main reasons people don’t get screened for cancer is that they don’t realize their own risk. We hope this program will help by building awareness about important recommendations from expert organizations.”

Most of the preventive measures recommended by the health organizations Facebook is working with, such as blood pressure tests, are free of charge with insurance coverage, but many people do not have insurance. To help people get affordable care, Preventive Health offers a way to find Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) near them. These centers are located in underserved areas and provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. People can also use Preventive Health to find convenient locations that offer flu shots, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and urgent care clinics.

“Flu vaccines can have wide-ranging benefits beyond just preventing the disease, such as reducing the risk of hospitalization, preventing serious medical events for some people with chronic diseases, and protecting women during and after pregnancy. New tools like this will empower users with instant access to information and resources they need to become a flu fighter in their own communities,” expressed Nancy Messonnier, MD, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC.

Over time, Facebook will work with additional organizations to include more resources and expand to other countries.

Facebook has taken privacy and safety into account from the beginning. For example, Preventive Health allows people to set reminders for future check-ups and mark them as done, but it doesn’t provide them, or the health organizations they are working with, access to actual test results. Personal information about activity in Preventive Health is not shared with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility. 

Additionally, Facebook doesn’t show ads based on the information people provide in Preventive Health — that includes things like setting a reminder for a test, marking it as done or searching for a healthcare location. As always, other actions that taken on Facebook could inform the ads people see, for example, liking the Facebook page of a health organization or visiting an external website linked to from Preventive Health.

Facebook has the release.