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Content and User Engagement of Health-Related Behavior Tweets Posted by Mass Media Outlets From Spain and the United States Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observational Infodemiology Study.

Alvarez-Mon MA, Pereira-Sanchez V, Hooker ER, Sanchez F, Alvarez-Mon M, Teo AR. Content and User Engagement of Health-Related Behavior Tweets Posted by Mass Media Outlets From Spain and the United States Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observational Infodemiology Study. JMIR infodemiology. 2023 Aug 22; 3:e43685.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: During the early pandemic, there was substantial variation in public and government responses to COVID-19 in Europe and the United States. Mass media are a vital source of health information and news, frequently disseminating this information through social media, and may influence public and policy responses to the pandemic. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to describe the extent to which major media outlets in the United States and Spain tweeted about health-related behaviors (HRBs) relevant to COVID-19, compare the tweeting patterns between media outlets of both countries, and determine user engagement in response to these tweets. METHODS: We investigated tweets posted by 30 major media outlets (n = 17, 57% from Spain and n = 13, 43% from the United States) between December 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, which included keywords related to HRBs relevant to COVID-19. We classified tweets into 6 categories: mask-wearing, physical distancing, handwashing, quarantine or confinement, disinfecting objects, or multiple HRBs (any combination of the prior HRB categories). Additionally, we assessed the likes and retweets generated by each tweet. Poisson regression analyses compared the average predicted number of likes and retweets between the different HRB categories and between countries. RESULTS: Of 50,415 tweets initially collected, 8552 contained content associated with an HRB relevant to COVID-19. Of these, 600 were randomly chosen for training, and 2351 tweets were randomly selected for manual content analysis. Of the 2351 COVID-19-related tweets included in the content analysis, 62.91% (1479/2351) mentioned at least one HRB. The proportion of COVID-19 tweets mentioning at least one HRB differed significantly between countries (P = .006). Quarantine or confinement was mentioned in nearly half of all the HRB tweets in both countries. In contrast, the least frequently mentioned HRBs were disinfecting objects in Spain 6.9% (56/809) and handwashing in the United States 9.1% (61/670). For tweets from the United States mentioning at least one HRB, disinfecting objects had the highest median likes and retweets, whereas mask-wearing- and handwashing-related tweets achieved the highest median number of likes in Spain. Tweets from Spain that mentioned social distancing or disinfecting objects had a significantly lower predicted count of likes compared with tweets mentioning a different HRB (P = .02 and P = .01, respectively). Tweets from the United States that mentioned quarantine or confinement or disinfecting objects had a significantly lower predicted number of likes compared with tweets mentioning a different HRB (P < .001), whereas mask- and handwashing-related tweets had a significantly greater predicted number of likes (P = .04 and P = .02, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: The type of HRB content and engagement with media outlet tweets varied between Spain and the United States early in the pandemic. However, content related to quarantine or confinement and engagement with handwashing was relatively high in both countries.





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