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

July 10, 2014

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

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

Scientists develop new supplement that can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults

July 18, 2017
Whey protein supplements aren't just for gym buffs according to new research from McMaster university. When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found ...

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.