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Special Issue "Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Communication and Informatics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2021) | Viewed by 29460

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Jon-Patrick Allem
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Keck School of Medicine of USC, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA
Interests: preventive medicine; social media; tobacco control; health communication
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Anuja Majmundar
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA
Interests: computational social science, data science, behavioral science, health policy, tobacco control, health communication

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue on the use of social media data to inform public health and policy for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. This journal is peer-reviewed and publishes articles in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health.

Publicly accessible data from those who post to social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube, among others, can be used to rapidly capture and describe health-related attitudes and behaviors. These data are produced organically and can be collected in near real-time, to monitor nascent health-related trends, public reactions to new policies and information campaigns, health emergencies, and user experiences with new products and services that may have direct consequences for public health and safety. Social media platforms also serve as vehicles to implement health communication strategies, and to deliver interventions aimed at promoting health among priority populations.

This Special Issue aims to highlight the utility in analyzing social media data for public health implications. In general, this Special Issue is seeking original submissions that harness social media to examine (1) health or health policy-related discussions, attitudes, and behaviors, (2) online marketing and promotional practices of companies and services that may influence health behaviors, (3) interventions that use social media as tools in intervention delivery, (4) applications of data science or computational social science methods in the health domain, (5) critical analysis of the role of social media in public health, and (6) theory-driven approaches to social media-based inquires. Special attention will be given to innovative submissions that combine data science approaches with theoretical models or frameworks.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jon Patrick Allem
Dr. Anuja Majmundar
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • data science
  • health communication
  • health education
  • health informatics
  • health promotion
  • health policy
  • public health
  • social media
  • social networks
  • social media intervention

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Article
Digital Surveillance to Identify California Alternative and Emerging Tobacco Industry Policy Influence and Mobilization on Facebook
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11150; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111150 - 23 Oct 2021
Viewed by 762
Abstract
Growing popularity of electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) has coincided with a need to strengthen tobacco-control policy. In response, the ENDS industry has taken actions to mobilize against public health measures, including coordination on social media platforms. To explore this phenomenon, data mining was [...] Read more.
Growing popularity of electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) has coincided with a need to strengthen tobacco-control policy. In response, the ENDS industry has taken actions to mobilize against public health measures, including coordination on social media platforms. To explore this phenomenon, data mining was used to collect public posts on two Facebook public group pages: the California Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association (CCASAA) and the community page of the Northern California Chapter of SFATA (NC-SFATA). Posts were manually annotated to characterize themes associated with industry political interference and user interaction. We collected 288 posts from the NC-SFATA and 411 posts from CCASAA. A total of 522 (74.7%) posts were categorized as a form of political interference, with 339 posts (64.9%) from CCASAA and 183 posts (35.1%) from NC-SFATA. We identified three different categories of policy interference-related posts: (1) providing updates on ENDS-related policy at the federal, state, and local levels; (2) sharing opinions about ENDS-related policies; (3) posts related to scientific information related to vaping; and (4) calls to action to mobilize against tobacco/ENDS policies. Our findings indicate that pro-tobacco social media communities on Facebook, driven by strategic activities of trade associations and their members, may act as focal points for anti-policy information dissemination, grass-roots mobilization, and industry coordination that needs further research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Analysis of Tweets Containing Information Related to Rheumatological Diseases on Twitter
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(17), 9094; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18179094 - 28 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 884
Abstract
Background: Tweets often indicate the interests of Twitter users. Data from Twitter could be used to better understand the interest in and perceptions of a variety of diseases and medical conditions, including rheumatological diseases which have increased in prevalence over the past several [...] Read more.
Background: Tweets often indicate the interests of Twitter users. Data from Twitter could be used to better understand the interest in and perceptions of a variety of diseases and medical conditions, including rheumatological diseases which have increased in prevalence over the past several decades. The aim of this study was to perform a content analysis of tweets referring to rheumatological diseases. Methods: The content of each tweet was rated as medical (including a reference to diagnosis, treatment, or other aspects of the disease) or non-medical (such as requesting help). The type of user and the suitability of the medical content (appropriate content or, on the contrary, fake content if it was medically inappropriate according to the current medical knowledge) were also evaluated. The number of retweets and likes generated were also investigated. Results: We analyzed a total of 1514 tweets: 1093 classified as medical and 421 as non-medical. The diseases with more tweets were the most prevalent. Within the medical tweets, the content of these varied according to the disease (some more focused on diagnosis and others on treatment). The fake content came from unidentified users and mostly referred to the treatment of diseases. Conclusions: According to our results, the analysis of content posted on Twitter in regard to rheumatological diseases may be useful for investigating the public’s prevailing areas of interest, concerns and opinions. Thus, it could facilitate communication between health care professionals and patients, and ultimately improve the doctor–patient relationship. Due to the interest shown in medical issues it seems desirable to have healthcare institutions and healthcare workers involved in Twitter. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Categorizing IQOS-Related Twitter Discussions
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(9), 4836; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094836 - 30 Apr 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1530
Abstract
(1) Background: The heated tobacco product IQOS, by Philip Morris International, is now available in over 55 countries, including the United States. Social media sites such as Twitter are often used to promote or discuss tobacco products, though prior research has not examined [...] Read more.
(1) Background: The heated tobacco product IQOS, by Philip Morris International, is now available in over 55 countries, including the United States. Social media sites such as Twitter are often used to promote or discuss tobacco products, though prior research has not examined how IQOS is presented on Twitter. (2) Methods: This study collected and categorized Twitter conversations involving IQOS. A manual content analysis was performed on N = 3916 English tweets related to IQOS published internationally between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. (3) Results: Most tweets were either online marketing for IQOS (32.3%) or personal testimonials related to IQOS use (34.2%). Personal testimonial tweets made harm reduction claims about IQOS either as an avenue to quit smoking/tobacco use (3.4%), or in comparison to combustible cigarettes (2.0%). Tobacco policy-related tweets were detected (13.9%), split between discussions of United States (4.9%) and international (4.4%) policies. News media tweets (14.2%) were also detected. (4) Conclusions: Our study suggests IQOS may be understood as a less harmful alternative to vaping and combustible cigarettes. Discussions also suggest IQOS is likely to be used to avoid clean air policies or used in areas in which smoking is restricted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Personality of Public Health Organizations’ Instagram Accounts and According Differences in Photos at Content and Pixel Levels
by and
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 3903; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18083903 - 08 Apr 2021
Viewed by 932
Abstract
Organizations maintain social media accounts and upload posts to show their activities and communicate with the public, as individual users do. Thus, organizations’ social media accounts can be examined from the same perspective of that of individual users’ accounts, with personality being one [...] Read more.
Organizations maintain social media accounts and upload posts to show their activities and communicate with the public, as individual users do. Thus, organizations’ social media accounts can be examined from the same perspective of that of individual users’ accounts, with personality being one of the perspectives. In line with previous studies that analyzed the personality of non-human objects such as products, stores, brands, and websites, this study analyzed the personality of Instagram accounts of public health organizations. It also extracted features at content and pixel levels from the photos uploaded on the organizations’ accounts and examined how they were related to the personality traits of the accounts. The results suggested that the personality of public health organizations can be summarized as being high in openness and agreeableness but lower in extraversion and neuroticism. Openness and agreeableness were the personality traits associated the most with the content-level features, while extraversion and neuroticism were the ones associated the most with the pixel-level features. In addition, for each of the two traits associated the most with either the content- or pixel- level features, their associations tended to be in opposite directions with one another. The personality traits, except for neuroticism, were predicted from the photo features with an acceptable level of accuracy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Healthy Food on the Twitter Social Network: Vegan, Homemade, and Organic Food
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(7), 3815; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073815 - 06 Apr 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2973
Abstract
Online social networks have become an everyday aspect of many people’s lives. Users spend more and more time on these platforms and, through their interactions on social media platforms, they create active and passive digital footprints. These data have a strong potential in [...] Read more.
Online social networks have become an everyday aspect of many people’s lives. Users spend more and more time on these platforms and, through their interactions on social media platforms, they create active and passive digital footprints. These data have a strong potential in many research areas; indeed, understanding people’s communication on social media is essential for understanding their attitudes, experiences, behaviors and values. Researchers have found that the use of social networking sites impacts eating behavior; thus, analyzing social network data is important for understanding the meaning behind expressions used in the context of healthy food. This study performed a communication analysis of data from the social network Twitter, which included 666,178 messages posted by 168,134 individual users. These data comprised all tweets that used the #healthyfood hashtag between 2019 and 2020 on Twitter. The results revealed that users most commonly associate healthy food with a healthy lifestyle, diet, and fitness. Foods associated with this hashtag were vegan, homemade, and organic. Given that people change their behavior according to other people’s behavior on social networks, these data could be used to identify current and future associations with current and future perceptions of healthy food characteristics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Social Media Use and Body Image Disorders: Association between Frequency of Comparing One’s Own Physical Appearance to That of People Being Followed on Social Media and Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(6), 2880; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18062880 - 11 Mar 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 12767
Abstract
(1) Summary: Many studies have evaluated the association between traditional media exposure and the presence of body dissatisfaction and body image disorders. The last decade has borne witness to the rise of social media, predominantly used by teenagers and young adults. This study’s [...] Read more.
(1) Summary: Many studies have evaluated the association between traditional media exposure and the presence of body dissatisfaction and body image disorders. The last decade has borne witness to the rise of social media, predominantly used by teenagers and young adults. This study’s main objective was to investigate the association between how often one compares their physical appearance to that of the people they follow on social media, and one’s body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. (2) Method: A sample composed of 1331 subjects aged 15 to 35 (mean age = 24.2), including 1138 subjects recruited from the general population and 193 patients suffering from eating disorders, completed an online questionnaire assessing social media use (followed accounts, selfies posted, image comparison frequency). This questionnaire incorporated two items originating from the Eating Disorder Inventory Scale (Body Dissatisfaction: EDI-BD and Drive for Thinness: EDI-DT). (3) Results: We found an association between the frequency of comparing one’s own physical appearance to that of people followed on social media and body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. Interestingly, the level of education was a confounding factor in this relationship, while BMI was not. (4) Discussion: The widespread use of social media in teenagers and young adults could increase body dissatisfaction as well as their drive for thinness, therefore rendering them more vulnerable to eating disorders. We should consequently take this social evolution into account, including it in general population prevention programs and in patients’ specific treatment plans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Characterizing #Backwoods on Instagram: “The Number One Selling All Natural Cigar”
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(12), 4584; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124584 - 25 Jun 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1968
Abstract
We sought to assess the proportion of Backwoods (Imperial Tobacco Group Brands LLC) cigar-related posts to Instagram that may contain misleading claims, nature-evoking imagery, and appealing flavors. Inclusion criteria for this study included an Instagram post with the hashtag “#backwoods” from 30 August [...] Read more.
We sought to assess the proportion of Backwoods (Imperial Tobacco Group Brands LLC) cigar-related posts to Instagram that may contain misleading claims, nature-evoking imagery, and appealing flavors. Inclusion criteria for this study included an Instagram post with the hashtag “#backwoods” from 30 August to 12 September 2018. Rules were established to content analyze (n = 1206) posts. Categories included misleading packaging (i.e., the post contained an image of a Backwoods product with the descriptor “natural” on the packaging), misleading promo (i.e., the corresponding caption to the post contained hashtag(s) like “#natural”, “#authentic”, “#alwaystrue”), nature-evoking imagery (i.e., the post contained images of grass, water, and pastural views along with a Backwoods product), flavors (i.e., the post contained a Backwoods product with brand-specific flavors on the packaging), flavor promo (i.e., the corresponding caption to the post contained hashtag(s) of Backwoods’ brand-specific flavors), marijuana-related (i.e., the post contained an image of marijuana next to a Backwoods pack, rolled cigars visibly contained marijuana, or hollowed-out cigars next to marijuana), smoking (the post contained an image of smoke or a lit cigar), brand-specific promo (i.e., the post contained an image of a Backwoods t-shirt, sweatshirt, hat, etc.), and perceived gender. Among the posts analyzed, 645 (53.5%) were marijuana-related, 564 (46.8%) were flavors, 463 (38.4%) were misleading packaging, 335 (27.8%) were flavor promo, 309 (25.6%) were misleading promo, 188 (15.6%) were nature-evoking imagery, 165 (13.7%) were smoking, 157 (13.0%) were brand-specific promo, and 239 (19.8%) were perceived male gender. Backwoods cigar-related posts to Instagram often contained misleading images and promotions of a “natural” tobacco product, images of marijuana use (in the form of blunt-making), brand-specific flavors, smoking, and promotional merchandise. Misleading images and the depictions of marijuana use in addition to the variety of flavor options may increase product appeal to consumers. These results underscore the need for comprehensive regulation of cigar products similar to cigarettes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Article
Google Street View Derived Built Environment Indicators and Associations with State-Level Obesity, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease Mortality in the United States
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(10), 3659; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17103659 - 22 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2280
Abstract
Previous studies have demonstrated that there is a high possibility that the presence of certain built environment characteristics can influence health outcomes, especially those related to obesity and physical activity. We examined the associations between select neighborhood built environment indicators (crosswalks, non-single family [...] Read more.
Previous studies have demonstrated that there is a high possibility that the presence of certain built environment characteristics can influence health outcomes, especially those related to obesity and physical activity. We examined the associations between select neighborhood built environment indicators (crosswalks, non-single family home buildings, single-lane roads, and visible wires), and health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality, at the state level. We utilized 31,247,167 images collected from Google Street View to create indicators for neighborhood built environment characteristics using deep learning techniques. Adjusted linear regression models were used to estimate the associations between aggregated built environment indicators and state-level health outcomes. Our results indicated that the presence of a crosswalk was associated with reductions in obesity and premature mortality. Visible wires were associated with increased obesity, decreased physical activity, and increases in premature mortality, diabetes mortality, and cardiovascular mortality (however, these results were not significant). Non-single family homes were associated with decreased diabetes and premature mortality, as well as increased physical activity and park and recreational access. Single-lane roads were associated with increased obesity and decreased park access. The findings of our study demonstrated that built environment features may be associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
Article
Role of the Built and Online Social Environments on Expression of Dining on Instagram
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 735; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030735 - 23 Jan 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2230
Abstract
Online social communities are becoming windows for learning more about the health of populations, through information about our health-related behaviors and outcomes from daily life. At the same time, just as public health data and theory has shown that aspects of the built [...] Read more.
Online social communities are becoming windows for learning more about the health of populations, through information about our health-related behaviors and outcomes from daily life. At the same time, just as public health data and theory has shown that aspects of the built environment can affect our health-related behaviors and outcomes, it is also possible that online social environments (e.g., posts and other attributes of our online social networks) can also shape facets of our life. Given the important role of the online environment in public health research and implications, factors which contribute to the generation of such data must be well understood. Here we study the role of the built and online social environments in the expression of dining on Instagram in Abu Dhabi; a ubiquitous social media platform, city with a vibrant dining culture, and a topic (food posts) which has been studied in relation to public health outcomes. Our study uses available data on user Instagram profiles and their Instagram networks, as well as the local food environment measured through the dining types (e.g., casual dining restaurants, food court restaurants, lounges etc.) by neighborhood. We find evidence that factors of the online social environment (profiles that post about dining versus profiles that do not post about dining) have different influences on the relationship between a user’s built environment and the social dining expression, with effects also varying by dining types in the environment and time of day. We examine the mechanism of the relationships via moderation and mediation analyses. Overall, this study provides evidence that the interplay of online and built environments depend on attributes of said environments and can also vary by time of day. We discuss implications of this synergy for precisely-targeting public health interventions, as well as on using online data for public health research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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Brief Report
Vaping and COVID-19: Insights for Public Health and Clinical Care from Twitter
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11231; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111231 - 26 Oct 2021
Viewed by 808
Abstract
This study describes key topics of discussions on Twitter at the intersection of vaping and COVID-19 and documents public reactions to announcements from authoritative health agencies. Twitter posts containing vaping and COVID-19-related terms were collected from 1 December 2019 to 3 May 2020 [...] Read more.
This study describes key topics of discussions on Twitter at the intersection of vaping and COVID-19 and documents public reactions to announcements from authoritative health agencies. Twitter posts containing vaping and COVID-19-related terms were collected from 1 December 2019 to 3 May 2020 (n = 23,103 posts). Text classifiers and unsupervised machine learning were used to identify topics in posts. Predominant topics included COVID-19 Respiratory Health (18.87%), COVID-19 Susceptibility (17.53%), Death (10.07%), Other COVID-19 Health Effects (9.62%), and Severity of COVID-19 (7.72%), among others. Public conversations on topics, such as Severity of COVID-19, Transmission, Susceptibility, Health Effects, Death, and Smoking cessation, were shaped by announcements from U.S. and international health agencies. Armed with the insights from this study, medical providers should be prepared to discuss vaping-related health risks with their patients in the era of COVID-19. Misconceptions around vaping as a protective behavior from, and an effective treatment against, COVID-19 should also be corrected. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Media Data for Public Health and Policy)
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