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Public health implications of social media use during natural disasters, environmental disasters, and other environmental concerns


Social media allows users to share information and communicate interpersonally during natural disasters, environmental disasters, and other environmental concerns. We conducted a scoping review of the literature using the Arksey and O’Malley framework to examine how social media is used during these environmental concerns, determine what the implications are for public health officials, and identify research gaps. Thirty-four articles were retrieved for the review. From these articles, four main questions were answered: How can social media be used to disseminate information to others? How is social media used for data prediction and early warnings? How is social media used for environmental awareness and health promotion? Lastly, how can social media be used as an indicator of public participation in social media during environmental concerns? We found evidence supporting social media as a useful surveillance tool during natural disasters, environmental disasters, and other environmental concerns. Public health officials can use social media to gain insight into public opinions and perceptions. Social media allows public health workers and emergency responders to act more quickly and efficiently during crises. Further research is needed to improve the use of social media during natural disasters, environmental disasters, and other environmental concerns.

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ICHF is supported by the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (15IPA1509134). This paper is not related to ICHF’s CDC-supported research. CDC has no role in the study design, writing, and submission of this literature review. This paper does not represent the official positions of the CDC or US Government.

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Correspondence to Isaac Chun-Hai Fung.

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Kathryn C. Finch, Kassandra R. Snook, Carmen H. Duke have contributed equally to this paper as co-first authors.

King-Wa Fu, Zion Tsz Ho Tse, Atin Adhikari and Isaac Chun-Hai Fung have contributed equally to this paper as joint senior authors.

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Finch, K.C., Snook, K.R., Duke, C.H. et al. Public health implications of social media use during natural disasters, environmental disasters, and other environmental concerns. Nat Hazards 83, 729–760 (2016).

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  • Public health
  • Natural disasters
  • Environmental disasters
  • Crisis management
  • Social media
  • Disaster communication