Local Health Departments Tweeting About Ebola: Characteristics and Messaging
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Journal titleJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Publication Begin pagee16
Publication End pagee24
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractContext: The first imported U.S. Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever case during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak triggered an increase in online activity through various social media platforms, including Twitter. Objectives: The purpose of our study was to examine characteristics of local health departments (LHDs) tweeting about Ebola, in addition to how and when LHDs were communicating Ebola-related messages. Design: All tweets sent by 287 LHDs known to be using Twitter were collected from September 3 to November 2, 2014. Twitter data were merged with the 2013 National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Profile study to assess LHD characteristics associated with sending Ebola-related tweets. To examine the content of Ebola tweets, we reviewed all such tweets and developed a codebook including four major message categories: information-giving, news update, event promotion, and preparedness. A timeline tracking the trends in Ebola tweets was created by aligning daily tweets with major Ebola news events posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Ebola website. Results: Approximately 60% (n=174) of all LHDs using Twitter sent a total of 1 648 Ebola-related tweets during the study period. Sending more tweets in general (OR: 2.42; 95% CI: 1.00-5.84) and employing at least one Public Information Specialist (OR: 2.61; 95% CI: 1.14-5.95) significantly increased the odds that an LHD tweeted about Ebola. Of all the Ebola tweets collected, 78.6% were information-giving, 22.5% were on preparedness, 20.8% were news updates, and 10.3% were event promotion tweets. A temporal analysis of Ebola tweets indicated five distinct waves, each corresponding with major Ebola news events. Conclusions: Twitter has become a communication tool frequently used by many LHDs to respond to novel outbreaks, but messaging strategies vary widely across LHDs. We present several recommendations for LHDs using this novel communication channel during outbreaks and other emergent events.
CitationWong R, Harris JK, Staub M, Bernhardt JM. Local health departments tweeting about Ebola: characteristics and messaging. Journal of public health management and practice. 2017 Mar 1;23(2):e16-24. https://doi.org/10.1097/PHH.0000000000000342
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