Local Health Department Use of Twitter to Disseminate Diabetes Information, United States
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Local Health Department Use of Twitter to Disseminate Diabetes Information, United States

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prev Chronic Dis
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    Diabetes may affect one-third of US adults by 2050. Adopting a healthful diet and increasing physical activity are effective in preventing type 2 diabetes and decreasing the severity of diabetes-related complications. Educating and informing the public about health problems is a service provided by local health departments (LHDs). The objective of this study was to examine how LHDs are using social media to educate and inform the public about diabetes.


    In June 2012 we used NVivo 10 to collect all tweets ever posted from every LHD with a Twitter account and identified tweets about diabetes. We used a 2010 National Association of County and City Health Officials survey to compare characteristics of LHDs that tweeted about diabetes with those that did not. Content analysis was used to classify each tweet topic.


    Of 217 LHDs with Twitter accounts, 126 had ever tweeted about diabetes, with 3 diabetes tweets being the median since adopting Twitter. LHDs tweeting about diabetes were in jurisdictions with larger populations and had more staff and higher spending than LHDs not tweeting about diabetes. They were significantly more likely to employ a public information specialist and provide programs in diabetes-related areas. There was also a weak positive association between jurisdiction diabetes rate and the percentage of all tweets that were about diabetes (r = .16; P = .049).


    LHDs are beginning to use social media to educate and inform their constituents about diabetes. An understanding of the reach and effectiveness of social media could enable public health practitioners to use them more effectively.

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