Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The Facebook effect: Social media dramatically boosts organ donor registration

Johns Hopkins researchers see 21-fold increase in a single day

A social media push boosted the number of people who registered themselves as organ donors 21-fold in a single day, Johns Hopkins researchers found, suggesting social media might be an effective tool to address the stubborn organ shortage in the United States.

The gains were made in May 2012 when the social-networking giant Facebook created a way for users to share their organ donor status with friends and provided easy links to make their status official on state department of motor vehicle websites. The findings are being published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

"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," says study leader Andrew M. Cameron, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "If we can harness that excitement in the long term, then we can really start to move the needle on the big picture. The need for donor organs vastly outpaces the available supply and this could be a way to change that equation."

Over the last 20 years, despite many efforts, the number of donors has remained relatively static, while the number of people waiting for transplants has increased 10-fold. There are more than 118,000 people currently on waiting lists in the United States for kidneys, livers and other organs and thousands of these patients will die before they receive transplants. It's estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 people die every year whose organs would be suitable for transplant, but because they had not consented to be donors, their organs go unused. In the United States, organs may not be removed from a deceased donor without permission from either the individual prior to death or the family at the time of a relative's death. It is believed that over time, roughly 100 million Americans have registered to donate.

By looking at data from Facebook and online motor vehicle registration websites, the researchers found that on May 1, 2012, the day the initiative began, 57,451 Facebook users updated their profiles to share their organ donor status. There were 13,012 new online donor registrations on the first day, representing a 21.2-fold increase over the average daily registration rate of 616 nationwide. Registrations varied by state, with the first-day effect in Michigan rising nearly seven-fold and with nearly 109 times as many online registrations in Georgia as on a typical day. Cameron says it was heartening to see that the states of New York and Texas, where organ donation rates are among the lowest, had some of the biggest bumps on that first day.

While the number of online registrations dropped over the following 12 days, Cameron says it was still twice the normal rate at the end of that study period. "The half-life of a movement online is often just hours," he says. "This had a very powerful, lasting effect. But we need to find a way to keep the conversation going."

While the number of declared organ donors increased, it could be decades before researchers determine whether those people ultimately donate their organs.

The Facebook organ donor project came about after Cameron, a transplant surgeon, and his Harvard University classmate — and current Facebook chief operating officer — Sheryl Sandberg began talking about the organ shortage at their 20th college reunion in 2011. Through many conversations, the idea of having a place in the Facebook timeline for users to share organ donor status was born.

Going forward, Cameron says the key to continuing the push for more organ donors is figuring out a way to bring back some of the lost attention of those early days of the campaign and to find a way to get it to again go viral. Cameron says he has spoken to Facebook officials who are discussing relaunching it on its mobile platform, changing its prominence on the Web version or even offering incentives, such as coupons, for people who declare they are organ donors.

Cameron says that in recent years social media has shown it is not only a place for sharing what you ate for lunch or posting cute pictures of your kids. It can be an agent of social change, such as its use during the Arab Spring, after natural disasters such as the recent Oklahoma tornado, and in get-out-the-vote efforts before the recent election, he says.

"This was the first effort like this designed to mobilize people for a public health cause," he says. "Now we want to build on that. Studying the response to the organ donor effort is the next step in the process of using social media for social good."

Other Johns Hopkins researchers who contributed to this research include Allan B. Massie, Ph.D.; Robert A. Montgomery, M.D., D.Phil.; and Dorry L. Segev, M.D., Ph.D.

For more information:


Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM), headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is a $6.5 billion integrated global health enterprise and one of the leading health care systems in the United States. JHM unites physicians and scientists of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with the organizations, health professionals and facilities of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. JHM's mission is to improve the health of the community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research and clinical care. Diverse and inclusive, JHM educates medical students, scientists, health care professionals and the public; conducts biomedical research; and provides patient-centered medicine to prevent, diagnose and treat human illness. JHM operates six academic and community hospitals, four suburban health care and surgery centers, and more than 30 primary health care outpatient sites. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, opened in 1889, was ranked number one in the nation from 1990 to 2011 by U.S. News & World Report.

Stephanie Desmon | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>