Risk Communication Workgroup February Report

On Feb. 5, the Risk Communication Workgroup held a video meeting to hear from three guest speakers, Nidhi Bouri of UPMC Center for Health Security, Jenine Harris of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and Jan Wilhoit of NACCHO to discuss newly released social media studies and recent research on the topic. In addition to the speakers, Maleeka Glover and Suzanne Brownlow of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also tuned into the presentations.

Nidhi Bouri, lead author, shared findings from a joint NACCHO/UPMC report, “Riding the Mobile Wave: What Local Health Departments Need in Order to Adopt Social Media and Mobile Health Technologies for Emergency Preparedness.” The purpose of this study was to identify factors that enable or hinder the adoption and use of mHealth and social media among select local health departments (LHDs), particularly for preparedness. The research team completed 65 interviews with LHD staff from 47 different departments. This study analyzes what organizational factors LHD staff perceive as necessary to support their use of social media and mHealth, which were divided into the following four categories: in-house capacity, leadership support and policies, legal and security issues, and audiences. Noteworthy examples at LHDs included Smart Chicago Apps and Ready San Diego.

Jenine Harris has conducted studies to build an evidence-base for social media use in public health practice. She noted that public health professionals are currently using social media for dissemination of health information, surveillance, emergency management, and specific interventions. Given that information, Jenine developed a project that conducted the first in-depth analysis of LHD uses of social media and examined the network comprised of social media connections among LHDs, their constituents, and other public health system stakeholders. Her study has shown the the LHDs using Twitter include jurisdictions with larger populations, public information specialists, and higher spending per capita. Currently, engagement studies are ongoing to better understand how engaged LHDs are with their followers online.

Jan Wilhoit discussed recent findings from the NACCHO 2-13 National Profile of LHDs related to social media. This study showed that LHD use of communication channel includes e-mail alert system (70%), fax blast (57%), text messaging (52%), Facebook (44%), Twitter (18%) and You Tube (12%). LHD use of social media has increased since the last profile study in 2010, most notably the use of Facebook.

About Sara Rubin

Sara Rubin serves as a Senior Program Analyst for Pandemic and Catastrophic Preparedness at NACCHO. Her work includes broadening access to medical care during influenza pandemics, exploring the role of pharmacists in public health emergencies, and exploring mhealth applications for public health. Twitter: @SaraRubin

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