The Measles Vaccination Narrative in Twitter: A Quantitative Analysis
Background: The emergence of social media is providing an alternative avenue for information exchange and opinion formation on health-related issues. Collective discourse in such media leads to the formation of a complex narrative, conveying public views and perceptions.
Objective: This paper presents a study of Twitter narrative regarding vaccination in the aftermath of the 2015 measles outbreak, both in terms of its cyber and physical characteristics. We aimed to contribute to the analysis of the data, as well as presenting a quantitative interdisciplinary approach to analyze such open-source data in the context of health narratives.
Methods: We collected 669,136 tweets referring to vaccination from February 1 to March 9, 2015. These tweets were analyzed to identify key terms, connections among such terms, retweet patterns, the structure of the narrative, and connections to the geographical space.
Results: The data analysis captures the anatomy of the themes and relations that make up the discussion about vaccination in Twitter. The results highlight the higher impact of stories contributed by news organizations compared to direct tweets by health organizations in communicating health-related information. They also capture the structure of the antivaccination narrative and its terms of reference. Analysis also revealed the relationship between community engagement in Twitter and state policies regarding child vaccination. Residents of Vermont and Oregon, the two states with the highest rates of non-medical exemption from school-entry vaccines nationwide, are leading the social media discussion in terms of participation.
Conclusions: The interdisciplinary study of health-related debates in social media across the cyber-physical debate nexus leads to a greater understanding of public concerns, views, and responses to health-related issues. Further coalescing such capabilities shows promise towards advancing health communication, thus supporting the design of more effective strategies that take into account the complex and evolving public views of health issues.
Copyright © 2016, JMIR Publications.
Radzikowski J, Stefanidis A, Jacobsen KH, Croitoru A, Crooks AT, Delamater PL. The measles vaccination narrative in Twitter: a quantitative analysis. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance (Journal of Medical Internet Research). 2016 (Jan 4); 2(1): e1.