Social media

As reported in the ASSET Strategic plan, the three Summer Schools on Science in Society related issues in Pandemics (2015, 2016, 2017) pose the main challenge of the collaborative project overall that is dealing with the intersectoral approach required by the management of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC), like epidemics and pandemics.

During the period between October and December 2016, we used our algorithm to find out the most relevant Twitter influencers about vaccines. We performed a multilevel study to categorize the accounts and to identify the most relevant hashtags.

We analysed 869 accounts and categorized 373 of them:

The internet deals a lot with flu, but mostly talks about care and little about prevention. This is the result of a study made by Voices from the Blogs, a spin-off of the University of Milan, on the web-sentiment on influenza and vaccination in Italy.

Until the end, it seemed it could sort out to be a happy-ending story, a demonstration of how new social networks, renown for spreading misinformation, can also correct it, when used properly. But the unfortunately predictable finale showed the opposite: counteracting false ideas about vaccines is not that easy. It will take time, a big deal of patience, communication skills and a good, coordinated strategy as well.

How many ways are there to tell a story and who will do it? In these months we tried to answer those questions by running an analysis of the most relevant tweets and accounts about some key words, chosen by the editorial board, focused on Zika virus and vaccines. We then developed an application to identify the most influential Twitter users on specific topics, according to a list of hashtag we have provided.

Institutions, public agencies and authorities can tackle different kinds of crisis by using social media. In the last few months, this has been done successfully in very diverse cases, both defending the reputation of a big oil company from a journalistic inquiry, and managing the response to a terror attack within a city. Even if the type and range of crisis is hugely different, the efficacy of a prompt and wise use of social network gives clues that could be useful when dealing with infectious threats as well.

Friday, February 12, 2016 - 09:00

Severe pandemics due to highly‐transmissible viruses continue to threaten the world in the 21st century. In a tightly interconnected world, infectious disease outbreaks can adversely affect economic growth, trade, tourism, business and industry, and social stability as well as public and population health. Public health authorities and researchers now collect data from many sources, and analyze these data together to estimate the incidence and prevalence of different health conditions, as well as related risk factors.

This fall, the publishing, by the Italian Minister of Health, of the alarming data showing the drop in vaccine coverage in the country, revived the ardent debate between opponents and supporters of vaccinations, especially online. Adding fuel to the fire was the death of a one-month old child by whooping cough at Sant’Orsola hospital, in Bologna, even if it is still unclear if such a tragedy actually had a significant link with the decrease of vaccine coverage or was just a coincidence.


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MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence