South by Southwest is launching its first official series of health seminars at the annual Austin, Texas, mega-fest, which began on March 11. As part of SXSW Interactive, health organizations and industry pros will converge for a series of talks on how social media and the internet are transforming health care.

The health track, with the one-day intensive session taking place on Sunday, March 13, began with a smattering of talks on Friday, March 11. Topics on the table for discussion include health apps and new technologies, social media and health care, video games and mental health, and privacy issues.

One panel will discuss whether or not physicians should use Facebook, while another will address the emotional impact of Twitter and other social media. A discussion dubbed "Geekfit: How to Embrace Technology and Healthy Lifestyles" will explore the long-term health risks of digital media obsession and long hours working in front of a computer. "Social Health: Who Wants to 'Like' Hemorrhoid Cream?" will discuss Big Pharma's aim to move into social media.

Mitch Rothschild, CEO of Vitals, a US-based matching service that links patients with their ideal doctors, will present his company's approach to digitizing the patient-physician relationship.

Also a small handful of fitness companies - such as Bikehugger, Endurance, and MapMyFitness - are set to display their wares on the interactive showroom floor during the festival. Austin-based MapMyFitness, which creates web-based apps to improve health and fitness, have also organized runs, walks, and bike rides for "festival goers who are yearning for some healthy activity to balance out all those cigarettes and Lone Stars," writes news site Austin Post.

In recent days, health bloggers have been buzzing about the upcoming health event at SXSW. "The inclusion of a health track at this week's SXSWi [South by Southwest Interactive] is big news," writes blogger Bryan Vartabedian, MD, of "Health, once a second-thought in the social world, is finally seeing the light of day."

Blogger Med 2.0 ( chimes in: "As many of you know, 2011 will be a defining year for healthcare at SXSW because 'health' is now a distinct topic/track within the mainstream SXSW sessions."

The 25th annual South by Southwest Music and Media Conference & Festival gathers an estimated 100,000 members of the international music, film, and interactive media industries in Austin, Texas, for a week-long convergence of ideas and talent. For five days during the festival, the "brightest minds in emerging technology" come to showcase digital works, innovative ideas and new products under the banner of SXSW Interactive.

To see the lineup of health events and read more buzz, visit: