Social Media in Public Health Surveillance Open Access

Zhang, Lanyue (Spring 2021)

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Infectious diseases are significant threats throughout the world. In recent years, social media has shown exciting promise to send early warnings to public health authorities to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases. Most studies about social media and public health surveillance (PHS) discussed predictive models based on internet search queries or online trends but using social media for PHS is rare.


The aim of this study was to perform a literature review to identify and evaluate the use of social media for infectious disease PHS. Besides, this study also compared and contrasted PHS of different social media platforms and identified advantages and weakness.


Systematic search of published literature in PubMed and included the articles from 2012 to Mar 2021. Citations were exported to Covidence™ system to perform the title and abstract screening and full-text review. Fifteen articles were identified in the end.


The fifteen selected articles focused on five social media platforms and included seven infectious diseases. This study found that the posts in social media platforms could be early warning system to support PHS, since the real-time reporting on social media will circulate faster than traditional notification. Besides, based on interaction function, the public health workers could promote health education through social media, and explore emerging disease symptoms and prevention methods.


Social media could be a great supplement for traditional PHS. Developing visual social media platforms also need to be considered. Besides, we also need pay attention to weakness of social media in PHS and improve them in future research.


Only 15 articles were identified in this review, and most of them focused on text-based posts in social media for PHS, only one article focused on visual pictures-based posts. Research on social media for PHS is still a new and growing field, we need more research focused on different social media platforms to develop PHS.


Developing visual social media platforms could support PHS for people who have lower education levels to promote health education. Public health authorities could use social media platforms to post more positive and active information about vaccination to influence public opinion.

Key words: Health Surveillance; Public Health Surveillance; Social Media; Internet; Infectious Disease; Disease Prevention; Public Health Emergency; Sharing Information.

Table of Contents

Chapter One. Introduction

1.1 Definition of Terms

1.2 Background and Significance

1.3 Purpose Statement

Chapter Two. Methods

Chapter Three. Results

3.1 Twitter

3.2 Weibo

3.3 WeChat

3.4 Baidu Tieba

3.5 Instagram

Chapter Four. Discussion

4.1 Compare and contrast the public health surveillance of different social media platforms

4.2 Advantages and weakness of using social media for public health surveillance

4.3 Limitations

4.4 Recommendations


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