247309 Social Media and Environmental Health Crises: An Examination of Public Response to Imported Drywall and Perchlorate Health Risks

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nicole Vincent, MA , Strategic Communications and Marketing Division, ICF International, Rockville, MD
Glen Doss , ICF Macro, Rockville, MD
Jana L. Telfer, MA , National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Atlanta, GA
Jay Dempsey , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
As social media burgeons as a vehicle of public health education, social media's effectiveness in disseminating health information and in assessing common perceptions of health risks remains unknown to many health communications professionals. In the event of environmental health crises, communicators must determine how to incorporate social media into their public education strategies through the assessment of key online channels, levels of engagement, cycling of messages, and common beliefs pertaining to the issue. On behalf of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ICF Macro conducted an investigation utilizing innovative methods to evaluate the use of websites allowing for user-contributed content (e.g. blogs, discussion boards, and media sources) in the public dissemination of information on toxic drywall and perchlorate in baby formula. A content and trend analysis revealed results on public understanding of environmental health risks and use of social media for public education that would apply to a range of other public health issues and communication strategies. This investigation underscores the necessity to evaluate the potential effectiveness of social media in the development of public health education strategies. Indicators in the determination of social media tactics may include the context of the issue and intensity of coverage in traditional media. The examination of how messages have been re-framed and disseminated also highlights the need to monitor social media to inform the creation of new or revision of existing messages.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Identify different types of useful social media channels to disseminate health information and manage crises. Assess public beliefs and attitudes in response to environmental health crises and concerns in order to inform public education strategies Identify tools for monitoring health communications across a wide variety of social media platforms.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Evaluation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was task leader on this research, conducted the analysis and identified the key findings and lessons learned.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.