Social media such as Twitter could better allow health departments to engage with the public to improve the tracking of foodborne illnesses, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
[Photo: Dr. Jenine K. Harris]
Researchers examined data collected by the Chicago Department of Health and its program, FoodBorne Chicago. From March 2013 to January 2014, staff members responded to 270 tweets about possible cases and provided links to a complaint form. Complaints led to the inspection of 133 restaurants, of which 54 either failed inspection or passed with conditions indicating critical or serious violations.
“Collaboration between public health professionals and the public via social media might improve foodborne illness surveillance and response,” said Dr. Jenine K. Harris, assistant professor at the Brown School and the lead author of the study.
“My guess is that Chicago is not unique when it comes to its citizens tweeting about health,” she said.
Results of the study were published in the August 15 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Chicago Department of Health has provided free access to the Twitter application through Github.com for use by other communities.