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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Responding to Tweets Could Increase Reporting of Foodborne Illness

Nearly 1 in 4 US citizens gets food poisoning every year, but very few report it. Monitoring Twitter for food-poisoning tweets and replying to them could improve foodborne illness reporting, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Jenine Harris]

Investigators partnered with the St. Louis Department of Health to implement the HealthMap Foodborne Dashboard developed at Boston Children’s Hospital. In the first seven months of the pilot study, they identified 193 tweets relevant to food poisoning and replied with a link to a form for reporting illness to the health department. Nearly seven percent resulted in a report submission.

“Increasing trust and interaction between government and the public through social media are promising strategies for food safety,” wrote Dr. Jenine Harris, associate professor at the Brown School. “The Dashboard technology has potential for improving foodborne illness reporting and can be implemented in other areas to improve response to public health issues such as suicidality, the spread of Zika virus, infection and hospital quality.”

The paper was published February 3 in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

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