Hashtag Medicine: Twitter Weighs In on Dem's Border Call to Action

Liz Neporent

June 28, 2019

US Representative Tim Ryan

"…I think the president should immediately ask doctors and nurses to go immediately down to the border and start taking care of these kids," US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said in the first debate among presidential candidates.

As soon as he uttered that statement, Twitter lit up with comments. Hundreds of users urged medical professionals to head to the United States' southern border to volunteer their services to the migrant children being detained there. Observers claim that children as young as age 2 are being held there in squalid living conditions and without access to adequate medical services. Others on Twitter said Ryan was misguided and that the Democrats are wrong to prioritize "illegals" over Americans.

Several professional medical organizations joined the conversation to offer their thoughts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been a leading advocate for the immigrant children. The group published a 10-tweet thread on the topic, noting that they've sent their current president, Kyle Yasuda, MD, and president-elect, Sally Goza, MD, to the border.

https://twitter.com/AmerAcadPeds/status/1143880398872698881

Doctors Without Borders also tweeted about helping migrant children. The organization does not run medical projects in the United States, but they do provide care to people along the migration route in Mexico, including four sites near the US border. The group tweeted out its concern for asylum seekers.

https://twitter.com/MSF_USA/status/1143970315560718343

A few clinicians dipped into the conversation, mostly to ask about how they might help.

https://twitter.com/DrMendezDO/status/1144237691967614977 https://twitter.com/Christi38240681/status/1144097365277544448

Lourdes Pereda, MD, a pediatrician in Angier, North Carolina outside Raleigh, sent out a second tweet sharing what she had learned: special permits are required to work with the children, and clinicians are not allowed access to them without clearance.

Beyond Ryan's remarks, the subject of healthcare was front and center during both nights of the Democratic debates. The hashtags #Medicare4All and #MedicareForAll were tweeted out more than 15,000 times the night of the first debate and nearly 20,000 times on the second night, according to the healthcare data-tracking service Symplur. In fact, these were the busiest debate-related hashtags, drawing more than twice as much action as the official debate hashtags, #DemDebate and #DemDebate2.

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