Understanding Discussions of Health Issues on Twitter: A Visual Analytic Study

How to Cite

Ola, O., & Sedig, K. (2020). Understanding Discussions of Health Issues on Twitter: A Visual Analytic Study. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v12i1.10321


Social media allows for the exploration of online discussions of health issues outside of traditional health spaces. Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms that allows users to post short comments (i.e., tweets). The unrestricted access to opinions and a large user base makes Twitter a major source for collection and quick dissemination of some health information. Health organizations, individuals, news organizations, businesses, and a host of other entities discuss health issues on Twitter. However, the enormous number of tweets presents challenges to those who seek to improve their knowledge of health issues. For instance, it is difficult to understand the overall sentiment on a health issue or the central message of the discourse. For Twitter to be an effective tool for health promotion, stakeholders need to be able to understand, analyze, and appraise health information and discussions on this platform. The purpose of this paper is to examine how a visual analytic study can provide insight into a variety of health issues on Twitter. Visual analytics enhances the understanding of data by combining computational models with interactive visualizations. Our study demonstrates how machine learning techniques and visualizations can be used to analyze and understand discussions of health issues on Twitter. In this paper, we report on the process of data collection, analysis of data, and representation of results. We present our findings and discuss the implications of this work to support the use of Twitter for health promotion.

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