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Facebook Initiative Boosts Organ Donor Registration Significantly

June 18, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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An initiative on Facebook single-handily led to a 21-fold increase of people who registered themselves as an organ donor in a single day, researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently discovered. The results of the study indicate that social media may be the perfect way to battle the static number of donors in the country.

The 21-fold increase happened in May of last year when Facebook allowed users to share their organ donor status with friends. It also provided a link that let users make their status official on state department of motor vehicle websites.

Looking at the data from Facebook and the organ registry lists, the researchers discovered that when that initiative began, 57,451 Facebook users had updated their profiles to share their organ donor status. Of that number, 13,012 were new online donor registrations, representing a 21.2-fold increase over the average daily registration rate of 616 nationwide.

“The short-term response was incredibly dramatic, unlike anything we had ever seen before in campaigns to increase the organ donation rate. And at the end of two weeks, the number of new organ donors was still climbing at twice the normal rate," study leader Andrew M. Cameron, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Dr. Cameron says if this success can be captured long-term then the needle can be moved significantly. According to Johns Hopkins, while the number of donors has remained relatively the same, the need for organs has climbed 10-fold. There are more 118,000 people currently on waiting lists in the United States for kidneys, livers and other organs.

This is just the latest in a line of research efforts looking to determine how social media can be used to improve healthcare. Recent research at the University of Texas at Austin found that Twitter is not only a popular source for receiving and sharing new information about vaccines, but it can also be a reliable one as well.

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