Objective: We examined the use of social media by local health departments (LHDs) and variation by important characteristics such as governance, size of population served, and presence of local board of health.
Data: Data were drawn from the National Association of County and City Health Officials' (NACCHO) 2010 Profile Study, administered to 2,656 LHDs. A module consisting of questions on social media was also administered to a nationally representative sample of 625 LHDs.
Methods and Results: Our bivariate analysis included Chi-Square test as well as Somers-D test for the nominal variables and Kendal's Tau-b for the ordinal variables. Our findings indicate that the two most commonly used social medias by LHDs are Facebook (27.9%) and Twitter (12.9%).
Our bivariate analysis indicated that 30.9% locally governed LHDs used Facebook whereas 16.5% of state governed and 21.5% of LHDs with shared governance used this social media. A significantly greater proportion of LHDs with one or more local boards of health (30.3%) used Facebook than LHDs with no local board of health (20.1%). Moreover, 41% of LHDs with an epidemiologist on staff used Facebook compared with 22.4% of LHDs with no epidemiologist. Significant variation existed in the use of Facebook by the size of the population served by the LHDs. Having an epidemiologist mattered, as 27% of LHDs with an epidemiologist on staff used Twitter compared with 9% of LHDs with no epidemiologist. Significant variation existed in the use of Twitter by the size of the population served by LHDs. Over 35.9% of LHDs serving a population size of 500,000+ use Twitter whereas only 6.3% serving a population of less than 25,000, and 7.7% serving a population of 50,000-99,999 used Twitter. A higher proportion of locally governed LHDs used Twitter than state governed LHDs, 14% and 10% respectively.
Public Health Implication: Social media use by health departments is an innovative platform of communication to the populations they serve.
Conclusion: In 2010 (the latest data collected) a substantial proportion of LHDs used some forms of social media. We expect that the usage has increased in the past couple of years.
Learning Areas: Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs; Administration, management, leadership; Advocacy for health and health education; Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs; Other professions or practice related to public health; Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health.
Learning Objectives: Identify the top social media used by local health departments (LHDs) Differentiate key characteristics that influence the use of social media by LHDs.
- Health Information,
- Health Departments