Online Program

CDC, Facebook, Ebola, and everything else: How publics respond to the CDC posts about the recent Ebola outbreak compared to other public health topics

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jeanine Guidry, M.S., M.P.S., Department of Health Behavior and Policy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Shana Meganck, Ph.D., Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Kellie Carlyle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background: Public health organizations have struggled to address the public’s concerns regarding the recent Ebola outbreak. The CDC has been at the forefront of this conversation, with Facebook one of its main communications platforms. During this process, the CDC was the recipient of widespread public criticism after seemingly inaccurate messages by CDC officials were accompanied by Ebola cases in the United States. Social media platforms and Facebook in particular play an increasingly important role in health communication; however, not much is known about online social media discussions about Ebola and how it compares to discussions about other public health issues. Of particular interest are expressions of health behavior constructs like perceived susceptibility and perceived severity.

Method: This study analyzes public engagement on Facebook with CDC posts about Ebola versus CDC posts about non-Ebola topics. In a mixed-method content analysis, all CDC Facebook posts from July-December of 2014 and the their comments are analyzed, focusing on the type of information included, the frequency of public engagement with these posts, and other characteristics of both original posts and comments. Further analyses are based on the Health Belief Model and the Extended Parallel Processing Model.

Results and Conclusions: Final analyses are underway, and the study will be completed by March 30, 2014.This study will provide an analysis focused on how publics responded to the CDC’s Ebola Facebook posts, on the differences in engagement between Ebola and non-Ebola posts, and on providing insights in health behaviors constructs relating to both the current Ebola outbreak and future infectious disease crises.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Analyze Facebook communication strategies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deliver information about Ebola and non-Ebola situations and issues. Compare the public’s level of perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, and perceived barriers embedded in their comments to Facebook Ebola messages and non-Ebola messages delivered by the CDC.

Keyword(s): Social Media, CDC

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in Social and Behavioral Health at the Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as an affiliate graduate researcher with VCU’s Center for Media+Health. I have taken extensive coursework in content analysis methodology and social media research. Together with my co-authors I have published prior research and have presented at conferences on issues pertaining to social media, health communications, and the recent Ebola outbreak as a public health concern.
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.