‘Informing social media analysis for public health: a cross-sectional survey of professionals’ marks the first attempt to explore and outline the requirements of individuals utilising social media analysis platforms for public health.
There is growing evidence of the impact of the infodemic on non-communicable diseases, climate change, vaccine acceptance, and mental health, among many other health concerns. A recent study says that social listening and integrated analysis to generate infodemic insights are the first step in managing the infodemic.
The study titled ‘Informing social media analysis for public health: a cross-sectional survey of professionals’ calls for a need to look at interconnected solutions and training, with localised options and relevance. It surveyed professionals engaged in social media analysis for public health, averaging 4.4 years of experience across 55 health issues.
The survey ran digitally from December 2, 2022 to February 5, 2023, targeting professionals involved in social media analysis for public health in the English language, striving to reach a broad spectrum of practitioners in this field. More than half of the respondents called for the necessity for further training. This ranged from technical aspects like refining search strategies to broader systemic insights such as understanding the role of social media analysis within the larger infodemic framework, integrated analysis approaches, and the need for monitoring and evaluation support.
This study marks the first attempt to explore and outline the requirements of individuals utilising social media analysis platforms for public health since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Social listening and integrated analysis to generate infodemic insights are the first step in managing the infodemic. Integrated analysis involves bringing together different data sources to get as comprehensive a picture as practical. These could be digital sources (such as social media data, google trends data or website analytics) or non-digital (such as healthcare worker hotlines, focus group data or talk-back radio data),” it states.
The study has uncovered critical areas for future research, asking for the necessity to address training, capacity building, and leadership needs within this domain. It has also called for streamlining the access to more advanced platforms for effective social media analysis.
The results reveal gaps in training and a need to increase capacity building and leadership for those working in this space. “They also highlight gaps in technical and public health capability of social media analysis tools. There is a need for easier access to better platforms with technical capacity developed in consultation with, or with the needs of public health professionals at the centre,” notes the study.
The field of infodemiology has seen significant growth as a crucial part of the global health response. A review in 2021 analysed traditional news articles referencing the infodemic, finding a remarkable surge. From 2010 to 2020, only 61 news stories were identified, whereas in just one year (from January 2020 to January 2021), a staggering 14,301 articles were published.
Since 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken substantial steps, formally training over 1300 infodemic managers from 142 countries. The online OpenWHO infodemic management course witnessed 6500 certified completions by February 2023.