During the current COVID-19 outbreak, social media has been described as the source of a toxic ‘infodemic’ (register for the July 21 WHO conference on infodemiology) but also a valuable tool for public health promotion, harnessed by national and local public health departments to convey risk mitigation strategies.
We argue that, like other forms of media, social media are just a tool, neither inherently good nor evil. We present a metaphorical epidemic/response model to illustrate the multiple, often conflicting, functions of social media in public health, incorporating context and multiple levels of outcomes.
The SPHERE Continuum is a framework to guide the investigation and assessment of the effects of social media on public health. We consider the functions of social media across the epidemic/response continuum, ranging from contagion; vector; surveillance; inoculant; disease control; and treatment.
We also describe attributes of the communications, diseases/pathogens, and ‘hosts’ that influence whether certain functions dominate over others.
Finally, we describe a comprehensive set of outcomes relevant to evaluation of the effects of social media on the public’s health.
Check out the full article here and let us know what you think about how this model helps you structure research on social media and health outcomes.
Schillinger. D., Chittamuru, D., & A.S. Ramírez. (2020). From “Infodemics” to Health Promotion: A Novel Framework for the Role of Social Media in Public Health. American Journal of Public Health. June 2020:e1-e4. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2020.305746