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Do social media have a place in public health emergency response?

David R. Black, PhD, MPH, J. Eric Dietz, PhD, PE, Amanda A. Stirratt, MPH, Daniel C. Coster, PhD


Objectives: To ascertain whether analyses of social media trends for various Twitter responses following a major disaster produce implications for improving the focus on public health resources and messaging to disaster victims.

Methods: Radian6 and trend analyses were used to analyze 12-hour counts of Twitter data before, during, and after the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Radian6 was used to organize tweets into categories of preparedness, emergency response, and public health.

Results: Radian6 revealed that 49 percent of tweets were either positive or somewhat positive in sentiment about preparedness and only 7 percent were negative or somewhat negative. Trend analyses revealed a rapid onset of tweet activity associated with all keywords followed by mostly fast exponential decline. Analyses indicate that opportunities for improving public health awareness by leveraging social media communications exist for as much as 5 days after a disaster.

Conclusions: Analyses suggest key times for public health social media communication to promote emergency response.


social media, Twitter, Radian6, Japanese earthquake/tsunami, preparedness, public health

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