Digital Health Communication and Global Public Influence: A Study of the Ebola Epidemic.

Roberts, H., Seymour, B., Fish, S. A., Robinson, E., & Zuckerman, E. (2017). Digital health communication and global public influence: a study of the Ebola epidemic. Journal of Health Communication, 22(sup1), 51-58.


 Scientists and health communication professionals expressed frustration over the relationship between misinformation circulating on the Internet and global public perceptions of and responses to the Ebola epidemic originating in West Africa. Using the big data platform Media Cloud, we analyzed all English-language stories about keyword "Ebola" published from 1 July 2014 to 17 November 2014 from the media sets U.S. Mainstream Media, U.S. Regional Media, U.S. Political Blogs, U.S. Popular Blogs, Europe Media Monitor, and Global Voices to understand how social network theory and models of the networked global public may have contributed to health communication efforts. 109,400 stories met our inclusion criteria. The CDC and WHO were the two media sources with the most inlinks (hyperlinks directed to their sites). Twitter was fourth Significantly more public engagement on social media globally was directed toward stories about risks of U.S. domestic Ebola infections than toward stories focused on Ebola infections in West Africa or on science-based information. Corresponding public sentiments about Ebola were reflected in the policy responses of the international community, including violations of the International Health Regulations and the treatment of potentially exposed individuals. The digitally networked global public may have influenced the discourse, sentiment, and response to the Ebola epidemic.

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