Twitter, Facebook Emerging As Disease-Fighting Tools
Social media are quickly becoming a central part of the effort to protect public health.
PBS Newshour: Tweeting Your Health Woes Could Help Fight Disease
From Iowa to Brazil, researchers are discovering there is a distinct association between complaints, worries and random rants on the social media site and the spread of medical issues as wide-ranging as the flu, dengue fever and pollen-induced allergies. "By looking at the Twitter stream, we were able to track the public concern in real time about vaccination issues, travel issues and responses to public health," said Dr. Philip Polgreen, an associate professor at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine who used Twitter to track the progression of the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009. Researchers from the University of Iowa discovered the association for influenza by following Twitter keywords commonly linked with H1N1, such as "swine flu" and "influenza." The team began collecting the messages in April 2009, shortly after the first wave of H1N1 struck the United States. Not only did they find that tweets from people experiencing flu-like symptoms tracked closely with the information collected by the Centers for Disease Control, they also discovered they were highly accurate in terms of both time and location. The CDC results were much slower - arriving two to three weeks after the patients began feeling sick (Kane, 8/9).
Fox News: More Consumers Turn To Social Media For Health Care Information
Turns out Facebook is more than just a tool to help keep in touch with old friends and keep everyone posted on your latest whereabouts. Increasingly people are using the social network to gather information about their health care, according to a study by National Research, a health care research firm. National Research surveys 22,877 Americans across the country each month for its Ticker survey to come up with what it describes as one of the largest and most up-to-date surveys on consumer behavior when it comes to health care. According to its latest survey, 96 percent of respondents said they used Facebook to gather information about health care while 28 percent used YouTube and 22 percent used Twitter (Fuscaldo, 8/9).