Fight the flu on Facebook

ffshot2H1N1 and seasonal influenza beware – new heroes have arrived, ready to defend the population and fight a viral battle, via Facebook, in the form of ‘Flu Fighters!’

Developed by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a new Facebook application called “I’m a Flu Fighter!” gives you the opportunity to mobilize and take action against the threat of influenza – by telling your friends that you got the H1N1/seasonal flu vaccine and encouraging them to do the same. Launching as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the app also provides information on influenza – including a flu vaccine locator – courtesy of HHS’s

The app is garnering high profile attention and was even plugged on the White House blog on Saturday by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

The application is part of the HealthySocial project, founded two years ago by Ben Reis, PhD, of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP). CHIP has been instrumental in connecting the public with health care issues through technology. Reis and his team are working on a range of free social apps that allow users to collaborate with their friends to encourage better health.

“Social networks have tremendous potential to do good in the world,” says Reis. “By leveraging existing social connections, people can spread positive health behaviors and attitudes amongst their friends and loved ones.”

This isn’t the first social media tool that tracks flu to come out of CHIP. In September, they released a free iPhone app called “Outbreaks Near Me,” which tracks disease outbreaks in real time. The app got a lot of press coverage, including articles in the Wall Street Journal, Time, ABC News, USA Today and Scientific American.

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