Study looks at how Twitter can be used to address specific health issues

July 10, 2014, Washington University in St. Louis

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 on Twitter don't often include comments from representatives of government and 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 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.

Explore further: CIA joins Twitter, Facebook

More information: American Journal of Public Health, ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/ … 105/AJPH.2013.301860

Related Stories

CIA joins Twitter, Facebook

June 6, 2014
The secretive US spy agency joined the world of social media Friday, and quickly had the Twitterverse talking.

Twitter replaces chief financial officer

July 1, 2014
Twitter replaced its chief financial officer Tuesday with a former Goldman Sachs banker as the popular one-to-many messaging service reshuffled amid concerns about its ability to grow and prosper.

Twitter COO Ali Rowghani resigns (Update)

June 12, 2014
Twitter's chief operating officer, Ali Rowghani, has resigned from his post and won't be replaced as CEO Dick Costolo seeks more direct involvement with the company's engineering and product teams.

Estimating county health statistics by looking at tweets

March 27, 2014
A researcher at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has found that Twitter knows if you're obese—or at least, if your county is. Tweets can accurately predict a county's rates of obesity, diabetes, teen births, health ...

Twitter launches emergency alerts

September 25, 2013
Twitter on Wednesday launched a system for emergency alerts which can help spread critical information when other lines of communication are down.

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.