Facebook launches the Preventive Health tool

The new tool, currently limited to users in the US, focuses on getting people information about cancer screenings, heart checkups, and flu vaccines.

Facebook new health tools

Facebook keeps adding new health-related features to its platform, with the latest one including personalized reminders about health care tests and vaccines. The newly launched Preventive Health tool focuses on getting people information about cancer screenings, heart checkups, and flu vaccines — all of which could help people catch deadly conditions long before they become lethal.

Now available to users in the United States, the tool takes a user’s age and sex from their Facebook profile and provides them with a list of recommended screenings based on those two data points. Users will also be presented with more information about what kinds of tests are available, from a colonoscopy to a stool test or a CT scan. From there, users will hopefully talk to their primary care physician about what would be best for them.

Another feature lets users schedule a reminder for their screening, and mark when it’s complete. Also, if for some reason they don’t have a primary care physician, users can also look-up locations for more affordable “federally qualified health centers,” where they can talk to a provider about these screenings. Similarly, the app will also show where people can get a flu shot during flu season.

Finally, and because this is Facebook we’re talking about, there is an option to share Preventive Health itself with your network, but not information within it.

The recommendations Facebook is showing stem from reputable organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society, and were reviewed by those organizations for accuracy before being posted to the tool.

Given its track record, Facebook emphasizes the privacy issues users may have, saying that any activity within the tool won’t be shared with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies. Also, no ads related to the content in Preventive Health will be shown.

“We never see any of your health care stuff,” Freddy Abnousi, Facebook’s head of health care research, told The Verge. “This is simply taking information, making it understandable, and delivering it to our users and the people across Facebook.”

Only a limited group of developers at Facebook will get some data about whether people are clicking on the tool at all, and will use that to try to tweak it over the next six months to a year. If it proves popular, they will consider expanding the effort to more countries or including more information.

At the moment, Preventive Health is only available in English, with the Spanish version launching in about a week.