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Social Media and Emergency Preparedness in Response to Novel Coronavirus

Educational Objective
Review how social media can be used as a critical tool in managing COVID-19
1 Credit CME

The 1918 influenza pandemic affected one-third of the world’s population and resulted in 50 million deaths. One hundred years ago, medical therapies and countermeasures were significantly limited, and information exchange that could facilitate any public health intervention primarily occurred by telephone, mail, or person-to-person interaction.

Now, more than a century later, a novel coronavirus is the cause of a new global pandemic threatening millions of lives.1 Today, many methods of sharing information have been subsumed by giant social media platforms that have incredible speed, reach, and penetration. More than 2.9 billion individuals use social media regularly, and many for long stretches of time.2

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Raina M. Merchant, MD, MSHP, Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health, Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Civic Center Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (raina.merchant@pennmedicine.upenn.edu).

Published Online: March 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4469

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Merchant reported being funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL141844) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (R01 HG009655). Dr Lurie reported currently being a compensated strategic advisor for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation and serving as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2017.

References
1.
Paules  CI, Marston  HD, Fauci  AS.  Coronavirus infections—more than just the common cold.  JAMA. Published online January 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0757PubMedGoogle Scholar
2.
Clement  J. Number of global social media users 2010-2021. Statista website. Published August 14, 2019. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/
3.
Jin  K-X. Keeping people safe and informed about the coronavirus. Facebook Newsroom website. Updated March 18, 2020. Accessed March 19, 2020. https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/coronavirus
4.
Josephson  A, Lambe  E. Brand communications in time of crisis. Twitter Blog website. Published March 11, 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/Brand-communications-in-time-of-crisis.html
5.
World Health Organization. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV): situation report-13. Published February 2, 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200202-sitrep-13-ncov-v3.pdf
6.
Merchant  RM.  Evaluating the potential role of social media in preventive health care.  JAMA. 2020;323(5):411-412. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.21084PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
7.
Connecting people with resources. Facebook Preventive Health website. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://preventivehealth.facebook. com/
8.
How do I use Crisis Response on Facebook to give help? Facebook Help Center website. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/help/1786622978265847?helpref=related&source_cms_id=1761941604022087
9.
Merchant  RM, Asch  DA, Crutchley  P,  et al.  Evaluating the predictability of medical conditions from social media posts.  PLoS One. 2019;14(6):e0215476. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215476PubMedGoogle Scholar
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