Right or wrong: Characteristics of Ebola information in knowledge exchange social websites
Media coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa stoked public fears in the United States despite only 4 cases reaching US soil and the relatively low risk of further contagion. Because of the novelty of Ebola in the United States, misperceptions about the disease may exist. However, little research has examined the quantity, types, and veracity of Ebola information available to the public, particularly online. Knowledge exchange social websites (KESWs), where users anonymously post and answer questions, are of particular concern as sources of health information. Because submitted answers are not verified and responders’ qualifications may be falsified, the potential for misinformation on KESWs warrants rigorous evaluation.
A KESW was selected based on its popularity, prevalence of Ebola questions, and ability to retrieve questions by country. Five hundred answers to recent Ebola questions from the U.S. that were marked as resolved (i.e. a Best Answer was selected) were retrieved from the KESW and evaluated for accuracy. Answer characteristics, such as inclusion of citations, were recorded as potential predictors of accuracy.
Questions are categorized by theme (ex: transmission, treatment, symptoms). Overall accuracy and accuracy by theme are presented. Logistic regression modeling will be run to detect predictors of accuracy.
By quantifying the types and extent of misinformation on KESWs following an infectious disease outbreak, this study explores the role of the Internet as a contributor to the public’s health knowledge. This information serves as a foundation for future public health interventions and policy decisions.
Learning Areas:Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Define Knowledge Exchange Social Websites Describe the risks associated with increasing use of Web 2.0 resources, and Knowledge Exchange Social Websites in particular, as sources of health information Discuss the accuracy of Ebola information posted to a popular Knowledge Exchange Social Website List characteristics that predict accurate (or inaccurate) answers on Knowledge Exchange Social Websites Discuss the public health and policy implications of the accuracy of Ebola information being posted on Knowledge Exchange Social Websites
Keyword(s): Communication Technology, Information Technology
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an undergraduate student researcher serving as the lead research assistant under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Gorman, a professor of nursing, biostatistician, and public health researcher who has conducted previous research on Knowledge Exchange Social Websites. In addition to receiving training from Dr. Gorman, I have also been trained on the topic of Ebola by Dr. Esther Johnston, a physician/MPH with international health experience in Africa.
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.