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NCCEH Student Project Award 2014 - M Hempel

The use of social media in environmental health research and communication: an evidence review

M Hempel
University of Guelph: Master of Public Health

The rise in popularity of social media presents new sources of scientific data and new ways to enhance communication and citizen engagement within the field of environmental health. Social media is defined as “a group of Internet-based online and mobile applications…that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content and data”. Common categories of social media applications include: forums, message boards, social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), blogs, microblogs (e.g. Twitter) and media sharing sites (e.g. YouTube). A Statistics Canada report on Internet use found that in 2012, 83% of Canadians 16 and over use the Internet. Among Canadians that use the Internet, 67% visit social networking websites, a 9% increase since 2010. A recent survey by Media Technology Monitor found that nearly one third of Internet users actively use the social networking site Facebook, and nearly one fifth Internet users are on the microblogging platform Twitter. As social media has become such a prominent communication tool within popular culture, businesses, researchers, and experts from a variety of diverse disciplines have been investigating ways to leverage social media for communication, marketing, public relations and research activities. The purpose of this report is to conduct a review of the literature to examine the potential uses and effectiveness of social media technologies in the field of environmental health.