Social Media and Health

Use of social media platforms and data to disseminate health information and to understand and improve individual and population health behaviors and outcomes.

Feasibility and Effects of Digital Interventions to Support People in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders: Systematic Review

Sep. 5, 2018

Sverre Nesvåg and James R. McKay 

Abstract [from journal]

Background: The development and evaluation of digital interventions aimed at preventing or treating substance use–related problems and disorders is a rapidly growing field. Previous reviews of such interventions reveal a large and complex picture with regard to targeted users, use, and efficacy.

Objective: The objective of this review was to investigate the feasibility and effects of interventions developed specifically for digital platforms. These interventions are focused on supporting people in recovery from...

Use of Web-Based Parent-Adolescent Health Promotion Program among Puerto Ricans

Aug. 9, 2018

Antonia M. Villarruel, Nelson Varas-Díaz, Alexandra Hanlon, Elba Betancourt, Alicia J. Lozano, Lucia DiNapoli

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Despite positive attitudes of Latinos using the Internet and the increased availability of health information resources, few studies have been conducted that examine actual use and barriers to web-based health information.

Objective: To examine whether select sociodemographic factors and technology factors (e.g., computer and Internet access) predicted use of a web-based, parent–adolescent sexual communication program or a physical activity program, entitled Cuídalos, among Puerto Rican parents.


Social Incentives and Gamification to Promote Weight Loss: The LOSE IT Randomized, Controlled Trial

Jul. 16, 2018

Gregory W. Kurtzman, Susan C. Day, Dylan S. Small, Marta Lynch, Jingsan Zhu, Wenli Wang, Charles A. L. Rareshide, Mitesh S. Patel


Background: Social networks influence obesity patterns, but interventions to leverage social incentives to promote weight loss have not been well evaluated.

Objective: To test the effectiveness of gamification interventions designed using insights from behavioral economics to enhance social incentives to promote weight loss.

Design: The Leveraging Our Social Experiences and Incentives Trial (LOSE IT


Internet and Social Media Access Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Mixed-Methods Study

Jun. 6, 2018

Lauren A. Houdek VonHoltz, Rosemary Frasso, Jesse M. Golinkoff, Alicia J. Lozano, Alexandra Hanlon, Nadia Dowshen

ABSTRACT [from journal]

Background: Youth experiencing homelessness are at a risk for a variety of adverse outcomes. Given the widespread use of the internet and social media, these new technologies may be used to address their needs and for outreach purposes. However, little is known about how this group uses these resources.

Objective: This study investigated how homeless adolescents use these technologies for general and health-related purposes, whether the scope of their use changes with housing status, and...

Opioid Discussion in the Twittersphere

Apr. 25, 2018

Rachel L. Graves, Christopher Tufts, Zachary F. Meisel, Dan Polsky, Lyle Ungar, ...

Abstract [from journal]

Background: The rise in opioid use and overdose has increased the importance of improving data collection methods for the purpose of targeting resources to high-need populations and responding rapidly to emerging trends.

Objective: To determine whether Twitter data could be used to identify geographic differences in opioid-related discussion and whether opioid topics were significantly correlated with opioid overdose death rate.

Methods: We filtered approximately 10 billion tweets for keywords...

Yelp Reviews and Opioids

Apr. 10, 2018

Researchers are discovering that social media offers a window into the lived experience of patients and their caregivers. Using Yelp reviews about US hospitals, our team at Penn’s Center for Health Care Innovation attempted to give voice to these experiences related to pain management and opioids during recent hospital visits.

Research and Shiny Objects: Tips to Gain Media Attention

Nov. 2, 2017

A study doesn’t end with publishing its findings— for its impact to be fully realized, the findings must be disseminated. Even when research is adequately publicized, excessive jargon can prevent lay readers from understanding what it means. Since the clarity of scientific abstracts is declining over time, academics must go beyond publication to make their work accessible. One way to surmount the information barriers is to collaborate with journalists, who can help translate our research into action.

Twitter Accounts Followed by Congressional Health Staff

Aug. 7, 2017

David Grande, Zachary F. Meisel, Raina M. Merchant, Jane Seymour, and Sarah E. Gollust

In American Journal of Managed Care, David Grande and colleagues, including Zachary Meisel and Raina Merchant, assess who Congressional health policy staff follow on Twitter. While health policy research should inform policymaking, the communication gap between researchers and policymakers limits successful translation. Social media represents a new opportunity to connect researchers and policymakers. The authors measured Congressional health policy staff’s use of Twitter and the types of individuals and organizations they follow. To focus on more influential Twitter accounts,...

Coercion or Caring: The Fundamental Paradox for Adherence Interventions for HIV+ People With Mental Illness

Jul. 3, 2017

Marlene M. Eisenberg, Michael Hennessy, Donna Coviello, Nancy Hanrahan, Michael B. Blank

In AIDS and Behavior, Marlene Eisenberg and colleagues, including Nancy Hanrahan and Michael Blank, examine if a high-intensity HIV-treatment intervention would be perceived as coercive by HIV-positive individuals with serious mental illness. Previous research has shown that potentially coercive mandates during the earliest stages of mental health treatment are associated with later treatment benefits. Furthermore, the prevalence of HIV is significantly higher among populations with mental illness. The authors developed an HIV management regimen that utilized advance practice...

Young Transgender Women’s Attitudes Toward HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis

Jun. 12, 2017

Sarah M. Wood, Susan Lee, Frances K. Barg, Marne Castillo, Nadia Dowshen

In Journal of Adolescent Health, Sarah Wood and colleagues, including Nadia Dowshen, seek to understand young transgender women’s (YTW) attitudes toward HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in order to improve PrEP uptake in this population. Previous studies have shown that, despite a significantly higher risk for HIV amongst YTW, awareness of and access to PrEP remains disproportionately low. The investigators conducted qualitative interviews focusing on participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and experience with PrEP. Sixty-four percent of participants reported knowledge of PrEP....

Twitter as a Potential Data Source for Cardiovascular Disease Research

Oct. 6, 2016

Lauren Sinnenberg, Christie L. DiSilvestro, Christina Mancheno, Karl Dailey, Christopher Tufts, Alison M. Buttenheim, Fran Barg, Lyle Ungar, H. Schwartz, Dana Brown, David A. Asch, Raina M. Merchant

In JAMA Cardiology, Lauren Sinnenberg and colleagues, including Alison Buttenheim, David Asch and Raina Merchant, examine whether Twitter, a social media platform for person to person communication, can be used as a data source to study cardiovascular disease. The authors searched through 10 billion Tweets posted from 2009-2015 and extracted 550,338 cardiovascular disease-related Tweets for analysis. In these Tweets, the terms diabetes and myocardial infarction were used more frequently (200,000+ times) than heart failure (9414 times). The authors also...

Yelp Reviews Of Hospital Care Can Supplement And Inform Traditional Surveys Of The Patient Experience Of Care

Apr. 13, 2016

Benjamin Ranard, Rachel Werner, Tadas Antanavicius, H. Andrew Schwarz, Robert Smith, Zachary Meisel, David Asch, Lyle Ungar, Raina Merchant

In Health Affairs, Benjamin Ranard and colleagues, including Rachel Werner, Zachary Meisel, David Asch and Raina Merchant, compare the content of patients’ Yelp reviews of hospitals to the themes in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. They find that while the themes, or domains in HCAHPS terminology, included in Yelp reviews covered the majority of HCAHPS domains, Yelp reviews covered an additional twelve domains not found in HCAHPS. They also find that Yelp domains that most strongly correlate with positive or negative reviews are...