Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Tracking Public Health Trends With Twitter

From the 7 July 2011 Medical News Today article

Twitter allows millions of social media fans to comment in 140 characters or less on just about anything: an actor’s outlandish behavior, an earthquake’s tragic toll or the great taste of a grilled cheese sandwich.

But by sifting through this busy flood of banter, is it possible to also track important public health trends? Two Johns Hopkins University computer scientists would respond with a one-word tweet: “Yes!”

Mark Dredze and Michael J. Paul fed 2 billion public tweets posted between May 2009 and October 2010 into computers, then used software to filter out the 1.5 million messages that referred to health matters. Identities of the tweeters were not collected by Dredze, a researcher at the university’s Human Language Technology Center of Excellence and an assistant research professor of computer science, and Paul, a doctoral student. ….
….”Our goal was to find out whether Twitter posts could be a useful source of public health information, ” Dredze said. “We determined that indeed, they could. In some cases, we probably learned some things that even the tweeters’ doctors were not aware of, like which over-the-counter medicines the posters were using to treat their symptoms at home.”

By sorting these health-related tweets into electronic “piles,” Dredze and Paul uncovered intriguing patterns about allergies, flu cases, insomnia, cancer, obesity, depression, pain and other ailments. ….

…Other tweets pointed to misuse of medicine. “We found that some people tweeted that they were taking antibiotics for the flu,” Paul said. “But antibiotics don’t work on the flu, which is a virus, and this practice could contribute to the growing antibiotic resistance problems. So these tweets showed us that some serious medical misperceptions exist out there.”

July 7, 2011 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] 7 juli 2011 Door – ascleses – vindt deze informatie belangrijk om met u te delen- From the 7 July 2011 Medical News Today article Twitter allows millions of social media fans to comment in 140 characters or less on just about anything: an actor's outlandish behavior, an earthquake's tragic toll or the great taste of a grilled cheese sandwich. But by sifting through this busy flood of banter, is it possible to also track important public health trends? Two Johns Hopkins University computer scientists would respond with a one-wo … Read More […]

    Pingback by Tracking Public Health Trends With Twitter (via Health and Medical News and Resources) « | July 7, 2011 | Reply


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