Review Article

Social media health promotion in South Africa: Opportunities and challenges

Brenda Z. Kubheka, Vanessa Carter, Job Mwaura
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2389 | DOI: | © 2020 Brenda Z. Kubheka, Vanessa Carter, Job Mwaura | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2020 | Published: 09 July 2020

About the author(s)

Brenda Z. Kubheka, Health IQ Consulting, Johannesburg, South Africa and, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Vanessa Carter, Health Care Social Media South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Job Mwaura, Department of Media Studies, School of Literature, Language and Media, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Health promotion is an effective tool for public health. It goes beyond preventing the spread of diseases and reducing the disease burden. It includes interventions encompassing the creation of supportive environments, building public health policy, developing personal skills, reorienting health services and strengthening multisectoral community actions.

Aim: The aim of the review was conduct an analysis on the opportunities and challenges of the use of social media for health promotion in South Africa.

Methods: A search of review articles on health promotion using social media conducted using Medline and Google Scholar. Secondary searches were conducted using references and citations from selected articles.

Results: Social media has potential of being an effective health promotion tool in South Africa. It presents an opportunity for scaling health promotion programs because of its low cost, its ability to have virtual communities and the ease of access eliminating geographical barriers. It also allows real-time communication between various stakeholders. It allows information to spread far and fast and leaving irrespective of the credibility of the source of information. There is a need to take into account country specific socio-economic issues, which may perpetuate unintended consequences related to the digital divide, data costs and the varying levels of health literacy.

Conclusion: Considering the opportunities presented by social media, the National Department of Health needs to review its health promotion strategy and include the use of social media as an enabler. They also need to address to explore intersectoral measures to address issues which threatening equitable access to credible health promotion information.


health promotion; social media; equity; justice; digital divide


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