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      The Use of Social Networking Sites for Public Health Practice and Research: A Systematic Review

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          Abstract

          Background

          Social networking sites (SNSs) have the potential to increase the reach and efficiency of essential public health services, such as surveillance, research, and communication.

          Objective

          The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic literature review to identify the use of SNSs for public health research and practice and to identify existing knowledge gaps.

          Methods

          We performed a systematic literature review of articles related to public health and SNSs using PubMed, EMBASE, and CINAHL to search for peer-reviewed publications describing the use of SNSs for public health research and practice. We also conducted manual searches of relevant publications. Each publication was independently reviewed by 2 researchers for inclusion and extracted relevant study data.

          Results

          A total of 73 articles met our inclusion criteria. Most articles (n=50) were published in the final 2 years covered by our search. In all, 58 articles were in the domain of public health research and 15 were in public health practice. Only 1 study was conducted in a low-income country. Most articles (63/73, 86%) described observational studies involving users or usages of SNSs; only 5 studies involved randomized controlled trials. A large proportion (43/73, 59%) of the identified studies included populations considered hard to reach, such as young individuals, adolescents, and individuals at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or alcohol and substance abuse. Few articles (2/73, 3%) described using the multidirectional communication potential of SNSs to engage study populations.

          Conclusions

          The number of publications about public health uses for SNSs has been steadily increasing in the past 5 years. With few exceptions, the literature largely consists of observational studies describing users and usages of SNSs regarding topics of public health interest. More studies that fully exploit the communication tools embedded in SNSs and study their potential to produce significant effects in the overall population’s health are needed.

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          Most cited references 97

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          Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers' use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression

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            Earthquake shakes Twitter users

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              Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication

              Background Given the rapid changes in the communication landscape brought about by participative Internet use and social media, it is important to develop a better understanding of these technologies and their impact on health communication. The first step in this effort is to identify the characteristics of current social media users. Up-to-date reporting of current social media use will help monitor the growth of social media and inform health promotion/communication efforts aiming to effectively utilize social media. Objective The purpose of the study is to identify the sociodemographic and health-related factors associated with current adult social media users in the United States. Methods Data came from the 2007 iteration of the Health Information National Trends Study (HINTS, N = 7674). HINTS is a nationally representative cross-sectional survey on health-related communication trends and practices. Survey respondents who reported having accessed the Internet (N = 5078) were asked whether, over the past year, they had (1) participated in an online support group, (2) written in a blog, (3) visited a social networking site. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify predictors of each type of social media use. Results Approximately 69% of US adults reported having access to the Internet in 2007. Among Internet users, 5% participated in an online support group, 7% reported blogging, and 23% used a social networking site. Multivariate analysis found that younger age was the only significant predictor of blogging and social networking site participation; a statistically significant linear relationship was observed, with younger categories reporting more frequent use. Younger age, poorer subjective health, and a personal cancer experience predicted support group participation. In general, social media are penetrating the US population independent of education, race/ethnicity, or health care access. Conclusions Recent growth of social media is not uniformly distributed across age groups; therefore, health communication programs utilizing social media must first consider the age of the targeted population to help ensure that messages reach the intended audience. While racial/ethnic and health status–related disparities exist in Internet access, among those with Internet access, these characteristics do not affect social media use. This finding suggests that the new technologies, represented by social media, may be changing the communication pattern throughout the United States.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                J Med Internet Res
                JMIR
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications Inc. (Toronto, Canada )
                1439-4456
                1438-8871
                March 2014
                14 March 2014
                : 16
                : 3
                Affiliations
                1Evidence Based Healthcare Program Department of Internal Medicine, Escuela de Medicina Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile SantiagoChile
                2Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education School of Medicine University of Washington Seattle, WAUnited States
                3Department of Global Health School of Medicine University of Washington Seattle, WAUnited States
                4Department of Family Medicine School of Medicine University of Washington Seattle, WAUnited States
                5Department of Health Services School of Public Health University of Washington Seattle, WAUnited States
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Daniel Capurro dcapurro@ 123456med.puc.cl
                Article
                v16i3e79
                10.2196/jmir.2679
                3971364
                24642014
                ©Daniel Capurro, Kate Cole, Maria I. Echavarría, Jonathan Joe, Tina Neogi, Anne M Turner. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 14.03.2014.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                Categories
                Review
                Review

                Medicine

                public health informatics, public health, social network, health communication

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