Exploring the Role of social media in Health Information Dissemination: A Focus on Vaccine Equity and Health Insurance

Social media has increasingly become a popular platform for sharing and seeking health information. However, the credibility and usefulness of this information are often questionable. The overall goal of my research program is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of chronic disease health information as well as other related topical health issues on social media channels and to explore the role of these channels in information dissemination using social network analysis. This presentation describes two studies on trending health topics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first study aimed to evaluate health and vaccine equity trends during the Omicron wave on Twitter using social network analysis and trending hashtags. The study found that the volume of tweets related to the more specific hashtag #VaccineEquity was higher than the more general topic of #HealthEquity. The study also identified top influencers (e.g., World Health Organization) for these hashtags and how they changed over time. The second study is a social network analysis of health insurance-related topics during COVID-19 and is focused mainly on health insurance companies in India. Findings revealed a predominantly customer support type network in which claim settlement was one of the major topics of conversation. Taken together, these findings indicate that combining several currently available tools and approaches, including ontologically informed surveillance and social network analysis, to create proactive policies that promptly react to public opinion in crisis situations like COVID-19. The findings can inform the design of interventions and influence future research directions to improve public health outcomes.