STUDY LOOKS AT HOW TWITTER CAN BE USED TO ADDRESS SPECIFIC HEALTH ISSUES
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Released: 10-Jul-2014 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Washington University in St. Louis
Citations American Journal of Public Health July 2014
Newswise — Childhood obesity is one of the top public health concerns in the United States, with 32 percent of youths aged 2-19 classified as obese as of 2012. As health problems such as childhood obesity grow, individuals and organizations have taken to Twitter to discuss the problem.
A new study, led by Jenine K. Harris, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, examined the use of the hashtag #childhoodobesity in tweets to track Twitter conversations about the issue of overweight kids.
The study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, noted that conversations involving childhood obesity on Twitter do not often include comments from representatives of government and public health organizations that likely have evidence relating to how best to approach this issue.
“Childhood obesity is of great concern to the public health community,” Harris said. “People are really talking about it on Twitter, and we saw an opportunity to better understand perceptions of the problem.”
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 does not have a great game plan for using social media, we are still laying the foundation for that,” she said.
“We are 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.
The study was co-authored by Sarah Moreland-Russell, PhD, associate director for the Center for Public Health Systems Science and research assistant professor; Rachel G. Tabak, PhD, research assistant professor; Lindsay R. Ruhr; and Ryan C. Maier.
On the same day but from a different source we have a similar message about the communication strengths of Twitter and how it can influence people drawing comments about health issues. The figures are amazing.
UCSF COMMENTARY: TWEET YOUR WAY TO BETTER HEALTH
Study of Social Media Shows Potential to Convey Health Messages
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Released: 10-Jul-2014 6:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
Citations The Lancet, July 12, 2014
Newswise — Twitter and other social media should be better utilized to convey public health messages, especially to young adults, according to a new analysis by researchers at UC San Francisco.
The analysis focused on public conversations on the social media site Twitter around one health issue: indoor tanning beds, which are associated with an increased risk of skin cancer.
The researchers assessed the frequency of Twitter mentions related to indoor tanning and tanning health risks during a two week period in 2013.
During that timeframe, more than 154,000 tweets (English language) mentioned indoor tanning – amounting to 7.7 tweets per minute. But fewer than 10 percent mentioned any of the health risks, such as skin cancer, that have been linked to indoor tanning.
That offers a potentially valuable forum for conveying important health information directly to the people who might benefit the most from it, but the authors said further research is needed to explore whether that would be effective.
The analysis was published as an editorial letter in the July 12 issue of The Lancet.
“The numbers are staggering,” said senior author Eleni Linos, MD, DrPH, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Dermatology.
“With 500 million tweets sent each day and over 1 billion Facebook users, it is clear that social media platforms are the way to go for public health campaigns, especially those focused on young adults.”
Linos has previously published influential research on the harms of indoor tanning beds. The research found that indoor tanning beds can cause non-melanoma skin cancer, with the risk rising the earlier one starts tanning. Indoor tanning has already been established as a risk factor for malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
In their social media study, the researchers used a Twitter programming application to collect in real time all tweets that mentioned indoor tanning, tanning beds, tanning booths and tanning salons.
During the study period in March and April 2013, more than 120,000 people posted at least one tweet about indoor tanning. Altogether, more than 113 million Twitter “followers” were potentially exposed to tweets about indoor tanning, the authors reported.
“Indoor tanning has reached alarming rates among young people,” said Linos.
“And tanning beds account for hundreds of thousands of skin cancers each year. Through social media, we now have an opportunity to talk about these health risks directly with young people.”
Co-authors include Mackenzie R. Wehner, a Doris Duke Research Fellow at UCSF; Mary-Margaret Chren, MD, professor of dermatology at UCSF; Melissa L. Shive, a medical student at UCSF; and Jack S. Resneck Jr., MD, associate professor and vice chair of the UCSF Department of Dermatology.
UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.
So in the long term if you have computer, are a member of the Twitter site, you can pass your day with the world and it’s friends without moving from your chair. You can even influence the debates and change what folk are thinking. What a huge difference computers, the Internet with Twitter and FACEBOOK have brought about in less than half a century. What will the next half century bring I wonder?
But please remember if you sit too long it will not help your health a great deal. Stand up, stretch and move regularly at least once an hour or you might find you are glued to your chair and that will never do. Happy surfing. See you tomorrow Jeanne