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The role of social media in public health

Guest Editors:
Wasim Ahmed: Stirling University, UK
Jon-Patrick Allem: University of Southern California, USA


BMC Public Health welcomed for submissions to our Collection on the role of social media in public health. Recent data show that nowadays, around 4.7 billion people use social media, which means that sixty percent of the global population has access to the internet community. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown how people use social media for information and guidance, in a way never seen before. The downside of this attitude in using social media is the risk of the spread of misinformation, where frequently facts get distorted.

Meet the Guest Editors

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Wasim Ahmed: Stirling University, UK

Dr Wasim Ahmed is a Senior Lecturer at Stirling University in Scotland. His research interests are based on supporting healthy behaviours with cross-cutting interests in digital business and sports research. He has recently been studying social media and online disinformation.  He has also been conducting research in digital health such as exploring public views and opinions expressed on social media across a range of topics.
 

Jon-Patrick Allem: University of Southern California, USA

Jon-Patrick Allem is the Director of the Social Media Analytics (SOMA) Lab and an Associate Professor of Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dr Allem's research harnesses cutting-edge methodologies to document portrayals of harmful products in digital media. His multidisciplinary expertise in behavioural science, preventive medicine, and data science has led to data-driven public health insights featured in prominent media and scholarly outlets such as Nature, Scientific American, The New York Times, JAMA Paediatrics and the American Journal of Public Health. With the use of data from online platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, Dr Allem's research has shown the different ways that corporations influence adolescent health. He has successfully competed for 4 million dollars in government contracts and grants, with current projects focused on identifying sources of exposure to tobacco marketing among adolescents and young adults.


About the collection

BMC Public Health called for submissions to our Collection on the role of social media in public health. 

Recent data show that nowadays, around 4.7 billion people use social media, which means that sixty percent of the global population has access to the internet community.  

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown how people use social media for information and guidance, in a way never seen before. This behavior gave people access not only to information related to the pandemic and the spread of the disease, but also to social media platforms aimed to reduce, for instance, the mental health consequences of the pandemic itself. The downside of this attitude in using social media is the risk of the spread of misinformation, where frequently facts get distorted. The undeniable problem of the internet is being open to everyone, meaning that anyone can add contents and information on any topic, including any health-related claim contradicting current scientific consensus. Therefore, to avoid health misinformation on social media, trust needs to be built into public health infrastructure and investment is needed into interventions and policies. 

Social media can be used to efficiently spread and promote public health messages and campaigns. Awareness campaigns aim to sensibilize people on a specific disease or public health issue and achieve long-term lasting behavioral changes. Examples of these campaigns are awareness initiatives to motivate people to take action to prevent diseases, such as by self-screening, and control of risk factors.

Social media represents data sources for health surveillance to detect disease outbreaks and estimate disease incidence. These data can be used to identify populations in need and respond with customized interventions. Furthermore, the monitoring and collection of information can also help to quantify changes in disease awareness, and sentiments towards treatments and preventive interventions among people. 

BMC Public Health had launched this collection calling for research on the role of social media in public health. We particularly welcomed submissions addressing:

  • The potential benefits of social media in health promotion
  • Social media and health communication
  • Links between heavy social media use and health outcomes
  • Opportunities and challenges in the use of social media for public health surveillance and campaigns


Image credit: blackCAT / Getty Images / iStock

  1. The global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic relies significantly on vaccination. The collective international effort has been massive, but the pace of vaccination finds hindrance due to supply and vaccine h...

    Authors: Mervis Folotiya and Chimwemwe Ngoma
    Citation: BMC Public Health 2024 24:1312

    The Publisher Correction to this article has been published in BMC Public Health 2024 24:1410

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    Authors: Jonine Jancey, Gemma Crawford, Elizabeth Bowman, Katharina Wolf, Tama Leaver, Stella Bialous and Kahlia McCausland
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  4. Many studies have shown that using smartphones can improve cognitive function, but no studies have shown the effect of the diversity of online activities on cognitive function. Therefore, this study explores t...

    Authors: Qian Chen, Haoqiang Ji and Qingxin Shang
    Citation: BMC Public Health 2024 24:547
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    Authors: Catherine E. Slavik, Daniel A. Chapman, Alex Segrè Cohen, Nahla Bendefaa and Ellen Peters
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  6. Seeking COVID-19 information promotes individuals to adopt preventive behaviors, including wearing a mask, social distancing, staying away from risky places, and washing hands. This study aims to investigate w...

    Authors: Xuefeng Zhang, Lin Du, Yelin Huang, Xiao Luo and Fenglian Wang
    Citation: BMC Public Health 2024 24:316
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    Authors: Menghui Wang, Nan Yao, Jianming Wang, Wenjuan Chen, Yaobin Ouyang and Chuan Xie
    Citation: BMC Public Health 2024 24:57