Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
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How Twitter can be used to address specific health issues

How Twitter can be used to address specific health issues | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it

A new study led by Jenine K. Harris, PhD, examined the use of the hashtag #childhoodobesity in tweets to track Twitter conversations about the issue of overweight kids.


The study noted that conversations involving childhood obesity on Twitter don't often include comments from representatives of government and public health organizations that likely have evidence relating to how best to approach this issue. The authors think maybe they should.


Twitter use is growing nationwide. In its 2014 Twitter update, the Pew Research Center found that Twitter is used more by those in lower-income groups, which traditionally are more difficult to reach with health information.


While younger Americans also are more likely to use Twitter, it is used equally across education groups and is used more by non-white Americans than whites.


This, Harris said, is one of the reasons Twitter is an avenue that the academic and government sources with accurate health information should consider taking advantage of in order to reach a wide variety of people.


"I think public health so far doesn't have a great game plan for using social media, we're still laying the foundation for that," she said. "We're still learning what works.


"Public health communities, politicians, and government sources -- people who really know what works -- should join in the conversation. Then we might be able to make an impact," she said.

more at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710151723.htm


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askdrmaxwell's curator insight, July 14, 2014 6:09 PM

Do you use social media for your health questions and research? 

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Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research?

Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research? | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it

A recent study highlights the opportunities which online social networks may provide to analyze the impact of social behavior on health outcomes such as the prevalence of obesity.

 

For several years researchers have been trying to find the causes of obesity, aside from any genetic predisposition. Our social environment is regarded as one of the decisive factors overall. For example, families living in deprived circumstances are often prone to obesity because, it is argued, cheaper food is often more fatty and sugary –although this supposed causal link still remains controversial. Such studies have their limitations, since there is relatively little reliable information available on people’s physical activities and dietary habits. However, there is today one source, though rather unconventional as regards public health studies, which can provide a wealth of data: Facebook. Recently four researchers from Harvard Medical School, working together with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance– an ongoing telephone health survey system – and NYC EpiQuery systems, a web-based system designed to provide health data from a variety of sources, set out to examine the relationship between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and their weight*.

 

Studying populations through the lens of social networks

This is one of the first attempts to study the health of a population by extracting data from online social networks. Recently, another online study, carried out via social networks among 61 million people, which looked at the influence of messages on voting patterns, has already demonstrated the potential of social networks for this type of study. Such networks provide a new source of usable data and Facebook is one of the most useful tools since users tend to volunteer information on their surroundings, origins, background and personal interests.  Moreover, the sheer size of the network in terms of its user base is an argument in itself for using this data source. In the United States, half the population is active on Facebook, as is one person in eight worldwide. The study on obesity analyzed Facebook users’ ‘likes’, broadly categorizing them under "health and fitness" and "outdoor physical activities" as an indication of being physically active, and "television" as a marker for a sedentary lifestyle. The study reveals that in the US as a whole there is one clear link between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and obesity: in any given area of the country, a greater proportion of people with activity-related Facebook interests and a smaller proportion who like television appears to be correlated with a lower prevalence of obesity.

 

Gathering data on public health

The major increase in obesity on a global scale suggests that a person’s social environment says a lot about his/her health. Many studies have already examined the relationship between people being overweight and their immediate environment. For example, in places where there is less opportunity for people to walk, we find higher rates of obesity. Beyond the physical environment, this study now shows that people’s social environment may also be linked to obesity. There are many variables – among them common interests, whether active or sedentary – which make it easier to pinpoint populations at risk. Up to now, obtaining data relating to the social environment of these populations has been costly and slow, and the process difficult to carry out across a large population. The availability of online social network data for this type of study therefore seems to have come at the right moment.  Further research is now needed to better understand how the online social environment actually relates to health outcomes and how it can be used to identify when action is needed or target specific interventions.

 

*‘Assessing the Online Social Environment for Surveillance of Obesity Prevalence’ by Rumi Chunara, Lindsay Bouton, John W. Ayers and John S. Brownstein

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Social Media Can Boost Disease Outbreak Monitoring, Study Finds

Social Media Can Boost Disease Outbreak Monitoring, Study Finds | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it

Monitoring social media websites like Twitter could help health officials and providers identify in real time severe medical outbreaks, allowing them to more efficiently direct resources and curb the spread of disease, according to a San Diego State University studypublished last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research,Medical News Today reports.


Study Details


For the study, lead researcher and San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou and his team used a program to monitor tweets that originated within a 17-mile radius of 11 cities. The program recorded details of tweets containing the words "flu" or "influenza," including:


  • Origin;
  • Username;
  • Whether the tweet was an original or a retweet; and
  • Any links to websites in the tweet.


Researchers then compared their findings with regional data based on CDC's definition of influenza-like illness.

The program recorded data on 161,821 tweets that included the word "flu" and 6,174 tweets that included the word "influenza" between June 2012 and the beginning of December 2012.


According to the study, nine of the 11 cities exhibited a statistically significant correlation between an uptick in the number of tweets mentioning the keywords and regional outbreak reports. In five of the cities -- Denver, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, San Diego and Seattle -- the algorithm noted the outbreaks sooner than regional reports.

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John Mark Bwanika's curator insight, December 7, 2013 5:13 AM

Research on social media......

Drew Hodges's curator insight, February 19, 2015 5:50 PM

This is a cool article to show the real life change that social media is creating. Before it was stated that it would take up to two weeks to detect an outbreak of a disease but now with social media it can be done in a day. 

This article really shows how social media is becoming a part of our everyday life and is taking on roles that we probably didn't expect it to. 

However with the number of users increasing it is important to have tools that help us monitor the large amount of data that is present. 

Its no good having all this information if we cannot harness it's true potential, like the one illustrated in this article for disease break out.

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How Facebook Is Transforming Science and Public Health

How Facebook Is Transforming Science and Public Health | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it

Facebook has encompassed many things in its nine-year run. From a subtler version of a dating site to a gaming platform and a messaging hub. We’ve seen Facebook and its billion-plus users play a part in influencing politics, the form advertising takes, and how retail happens. Now we’re starting to see Facebook begin to impact science and public health, and it could be Facebook’s biggest industry-changing opportunity yet.


The logic is a simple one: Everyone on Facebook, all 1 billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And, as Facebook’s social creatures are in the habit of doing, that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders. Through the bullhorn of Facebook, healthcare professionals can deliver information 24-7 about flu vaccines, the path of epidemics, and essential preventive care. The social network can influence how and when people respond to disease, and how we manage death and dying. “Facebook has this massive and powerful platform [that] can be deployed for health care,” says Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute.


In his book about digital health care, Topol writes about the story of a mother who posted pictures of her sick child on Facebook. People in her network started commenting on those photos. Three, including a cousin who was a pediatric cardiologist, called to tell her her son might have Kawasaki’s disease, a rare genetic disorder. She called her doctor and told her she was on her way to the hospital because she had a “sense” her kid was really sick.


“What [else] was I going to say? Three of my Facebook friends think my kid has an extremely rare childhood auto-immune disorder which I just read about on Wikipedia, and since they all contacted me after I posted a photo of him on my wall, I’m going? It seemed … wrong!” Deborah Kogan wrote on Slate. Once she got to the hospital, she writes, she told the doctor about her Facebook-prompted visit. She claims the doc said, “You know what? I was just thinking it could be Kawasaki disease. Makes total sense. Bravo, Facebook.”

This is only one story, but it does highlight the potential power of the Facebook network effect.


Last May, for example, Facebook made registering as an organ donor an official “Life Event.” Theoretically, users always had the option to tell their friends they wanted someone else to benefit from their body after they died. But publicizing that information was likely not high on the list of things people thought of sharing when they logged in. Facebook changed that, at least for a time.


About 6,000 people in 22 states registered as organ donors on the first day after the announcement was made, up from an average of about 360. That spike in registrations may have trailed off because users were not continuously reminded of this option, but the social experiment showed the influence Facebook could have on public health, say experts studying the collision between digital tools and health care.


Facebookers can already add overcoming an illness, losing weight, breaking bones or having their braces removed to their Life Events under the category “health and wellness,” but those updates provide very limited information about health.


Physicians, Topol says, don’t even know what normal, minute-by-minute blood pressure should be. That’s a problem because millions of Americans suffer from high blood pressure. But what if researchers could reach even a fraction of Facebook users who have this condition and prompt them to participate in a research study that tracked their blood pressure, along with other metrics like activity levels and heart rate through digital sensors? What if at some point in the future, there was even an option to share genetic information on your Facebook profile? With its growing cross-section of users, Facebook “could really get us an enriched data set,” Topol says.

That assumes, of course, that the data will be reliable, that Facebook will work with scientists to do research as it currently does, and that people will be willing to share personal health information given concerns about how Facebook or third parties might use their data. If you post that you have insomnia for example, would sleep medication ads suddenly pop up?


Those kinds of questions, and the cautious nature of the health care industry, have tended to keep the flow of health related data on Facebook fairly unsophisticated. Until now, Facebook has mostly served as a platform to disseminate information on the cheap. “More hospitals are on Facebook than any other social platform,” said Lee Aase, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. Organizations use it, Aase says, to raise awareness about local blood drives, mental health services, free vaccinations, STD/HIV testing, or prenatal care.


Physicians, who you might think would love to use Facebook as a natural hub to communicate with their patients, have mostly shied away from it and other social media platforms to interact with patients because of concerns over professionalism and legal liabilities due to patient confidentiality laws.

But there are signs that the healthcare crowd is warming up to Facebook, in particular research scientists are increasingly using Facebook as a tool. Currently, there have been roughly 400 academic papers published in the last four years that mention the social network, according to a search for the word ‘Facebook’ on PubMed, a public database of biomedical and life sciences research. That’s not many, but the number of such articles published each year seems to be growing. Some of these studies are trying to tease out whether Facebook could be a valid teaching tool for dentistry, histology and continuing education, which suggests the field might be getting more comfortable with the idea of using social media more widely.


In September, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with Facebook’s Data Science group, published a study of 61 million Facebook users in the journal Naturethat suggested political messaging on Facebook influenced real-word voting of millions in the 2010 congressional elections. When users were told that their friends had voted, they were slightly more likely to vote themselves. Although the effect was small, “they translate into a significant numbers of votes” if extrapolated into a real-world scenario, according to an editorial published with the report. Imagine if the same could be shown for public health campaigns on Facebook? Scripps’ Topol asks.


“The leading digital doctors are really pushing the envelope on this,” says Topol. “But it’s just getting started.”

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