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JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2017 Sep 20;3(3):e60. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.6795.

Twitter and Public Health (Part 1): How Individual Public Health Professionals Use Twitter for Professional Development.

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1
Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The use of social networking sites is increasingly being adopted in public health, in part, because of the barriers to funding and reduced resources. Public health professionals are using social media platforms, specifically Twitter, as a way to facilitate professional development.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of this study was to identify public health professionals using Twitter and to analyze how they use this platform to enhance their formal and informal professional development within the context of public health.

METHODS:

Keyword searches were conducted to identify and invite potential participants to complete a survey related to their use of Twitter for public health and professional experiences. Data regarding demographic attributes, Twitter usage, and qualitative information were obtained through an anonymous Web-based survey. Open-response survey questions were analyzed using the constant comparison method.

RESULTS:

"Using Twitter makes it easier to expand my networking opportunities" and "I find Twitter useful for professional development" scored highest, with a mean score of 4.57 (standard deviation [SD] 0.74) and 4.43 (SD 0.76) on a 5-point Likert scale. Analysis of the qualitative data shows the emergence of the following themes for why public health professionals mostly use Twitter: (1) geography, (2) continuing education, (3) professional gain, and (4) communication.

CONCLUSIONS:

For public health professionals in this study, Twitter is a platform best used for their networking and professional development. Furthermore, the use of Twitter allows public health professionals to overcome a series of barriers and enhances opportunities for growth.

KEYWORDS:

Twitter; blogging; public health; social media; technology transfer

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