Journal of Community Health

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 174–179 | Cite as

The Use of Social Media by State Health Departments in the US: Analyzing Health Communication Through Facebook

  • Ayan JhaEmail author
  • Leesa Lin
  • Elena Savoia
Original Paper


The use of social media as a powerful health communication tool is an area of current research interest. Our objective was to describe use of Facebook by State Health Departments (SHDs) in US, and their relationship with CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data. Facebook pages of 34 SHDs were studied over a 200 day period, coding 2597 posts into 19 broad health communication categories. Mean number of Facebook posts per SHD was 76.4 (range 34–133); most frequent topic areas included healthy living (12 %), communicable diseases (9 %), vaccines and immunization (7 %), emergency preparedness and response (7 %), infant and child health (5 %), smoking and tobacco use (5 %), and miscellaneous (32 %). Through web-based interactive graphics (Google motion charts), we contrasted Facebook posts with CDC’s BRFSS data on adult nutrition and physical activity, vaccination, smoking, adolescent health and road traffic accidents. Our research finds an apparent disconnect between content provided on Facebook by SHDs and the health conditions that affect their populations. Acknowledging the severe limitations in funding and human resources faced by the SHDs, our research attempts to present the factual situation in embracing a vastly popular social media platform for health communication. We believe there is a need for research exploring methods to balance the demands and resources.


Social media Health communication State Health Department Facebook CDC 



We acknowledge funding support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cooperative agreement numbers: 1U90TP000417-05 (Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center) and 5PO1TP000307-05 (Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center) Supplement. The content of this publication as well as the views and discussions expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of any partner organizations, the CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CAMC Health Education and Research InstituteCharleston Area Medical Center (CAMC)CharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Community-Based ResearchDana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Division of Policy Translation and Leadership DevelopmentHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biostatistics and Division of Policy Translation and Leadership DevelopmentHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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