Facebook announces preventive health tool

Social media giant Facebook has announced its new Preventive Health Tool aimed at prompting users of its site to connect with healthcare services and organizations.

Facebook is partnering with U.S. health organizations to initially tackle cancer and heart disease, the top two leading causes of death in the nation. Specifically, Facebook’s resources on the preventive health tool come directly from the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Preventive measures have the potential to detect disease early when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, prevent it from developing,” Facebook Head of Healthcare Research Freddy Abnousi, MD, wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool. “Yet factors such as awareness, access and cost create barriers to testing for many people.”

The tool works in the Facebook mobile app for those in the U.S., where they can receive recommendations for checkups applicable to them, such as cholesterol tests, blood pressure tests or mammograms, as well as seasonal flu shot reminders. Most of these tests are already free for those with health insurance coverage.

The preventive health tool will also direct people to Federally Qualified Health Centers near them to get affordable healthcare services, as these centers provide care regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

Facebook also emphasized privacy concerns about the new tool, noting that while Facebook will see reminders for appointments and when people mark the as done, it won’t see actual test results. The addition of the preventive health tool comes at a time when Facebook is facing severe backlash for how it handles the data of its users. The company came under fire for its involvement with political operative company Cambridge Analytica, was fined $5 billion by the FTC this year.