From booting Ebola, to ice buckets for ALS, social media is giving health campaigns a global reach

Alexandra DiPalma and Emily DeRuy
Maree Williams/Getty Images

A group of African medical students launch a campaign to eradicate Ebola and Japanese medical students lend their support.

A guy in Los Angeles grows a beard and posts a selfie to raise awareness about prostate cancer, and a girl in Brazil favorites his picture.


Social media and technology are transforming the world of health activism, bringing global greater awareness to issues such as Lou Gehrig's disease — and, when things go well, raising buckets of money in the process.

Just a few years ago it took significant effort and money to raise an international health-awareness campaign. Now all it takes is a viral Facebook post or clever Instagram photo to instantly reach thousands of people around the world.

Here are five campaigns that combine genius engineering and the magic of the Internet to promote better health.

Kick Ebola Out

This fall, a group of medical students in Guinea and Sierra Leone turned to the power of social media to crowdfund a campaign to buy medical supplies to stop the spread of Ebola. The students posted photos and YouTube videos to generate support from around the world, exceeding the $5,000 they originally hoped to raise from an Indiegogo campaign. Other crowdfunding efforts to eradicate Ebola, such as Tackle Ebola, also allow people around the world to donate to individual projects, such as installing hand-washing stations and caring for children orphaned by the deadly virus.


No Shave November

Back in pre-Instagram days of 2009, a couple of friends began urging people to spend their November grooming budget on cancer charity instead. Since then, #NoShaveNovember has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from participants around the globe. From athletes to hipster video bloggers, guys — and girls — have taken the cause to heart — and social media. Another campaign, Movember, urges men to grow mustaches to support efforts to fight prostate and testiculur cancer.


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Celebs such Lebron James, President George W. Bush and Kermit the Frog all got involved with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the social media campaign that went viral this summer and raised both money and awareness for ALS.


The challenge started in Boston as a way to support Pete Frates, the 29-year old former captain of the Boston College baseball team who was diagnosed with ALS, and has since raised a staggering $115 million in donations. Beyond monetary donations, the ALS Association says they've seen increased participation in events like its fall Walk to Defeat ALS.

Here's the most popular Ice Bucket Challenge video, courtesy of Justin Bieber


The charity movement now known as "FCancer" started with one simple t-shirt.

After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Yael Cohen Braun created a t-shirt to give her after surgery. Much to Cohen Braun's surprise, her mom actually wore the expletive-emblazoned shirt out in public, getting hugs and high-fives from passersby and fellow survivors.


Based on the success of her "FCancer" shirts, Cohen Braun started a series of social media campaigns to increase awareness and raise money towards changing the way we perceive and discuss the disease.

Here's a clip from FCancer's "The Cancer Talk" campaign, which encouraged an open dialogue about the disease.


Share a VETie

This campaign is brand new and it's unclear whether it will have the secret sauce necessary to go viral, but Ride 2 Recovery and GE Veterans Network hope to raise awareness about PTSD and traumatic brain injuries by encouraging people to post a "VETie," a selfie with a veteran with the hashtag #NoVetAlone and to donate to the organizations through a simple text message drive.


Alexandra DiPalma is a producer for Fusion Lightworks, Fusion’s In-house Branded Content Agency.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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