Evaluation of chronic disease education & health information quality using online social networks & communities

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and mental illness are the leading causes of morbidity and disability. The total cost in the United States was $327 billion for diagnosed diabetes, 80.2 billion for cancer and $193.2 billion for serious mental illness. Chronic diseases rely a great deal on patient education and self-management and social media is an important tool for information dissemination in that regard.  Diabetes, cancer and mental illness are among the top 10 searched diseases on social media, which is among the newly emerging Consumer to Consumer (C2C) tools. For instance, Twitter is increasingly becoming a space for online conversations about chronic diseases, including healthy behaviors, drugs & treatments. This study hypothesizes that public perception about health topics can be influenced by the quality of social networks around a topic. A combination of methods will be used to analyze online C2C channels such as social media and publicly available health information resources. We will use various search themes based on medical topics including but not limited to emerging behavioral guidelines and standard terminology for chronic diseases. The primary goal is to visualize the nature and shape of communities and find cues about information sharing behaviors among online chronic disease communities. The hope is that this information can be exploited for educational, promotional or interventional strategies and policies. The eventual goal is to develop an informatics framework to systematically determine the quality and reliability of health information on specific medical topics.