Twitter Best Channel to Spread Updated Health-Related Messages in Australia

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 23, 2013 5:54 PM EST

Given the speed of lightning exchanges in Twitter, a new research made by the Australian University of Sydney said public health authorities ought to maximise the medium to announce important and updated public health information.

Both federal and state governments in Australia operate and maintain Twitter accounts. However, Professor Robert Steele, head of Discipline and chair of Health Informatics at the university's Faculty of Health Sciences, noticed that still many, specially public health organisations, don't use the medium that much.

"One of things we noticed in our research was that government Twitter accounts had been quite successful in disseminating information - they have more followers on average and their messages are more retweeted," he told AAP.

"But we also noticed that government accounts tweet less."

"In areas where it's reasonable to provide information they were tweeting at a fairly low rate."

Since Twitter users are more often on their mobile rather than glued to their computers, messages get to be spread faster.

"Twitter has a powerful characteristic in that it is members of the public who distribute public health information by forwarding messages from public health organisations to their followers."

"Using new communications technologies to allow people to directly receive relevant and up-to-the-minute public health information could benefit the health of millions and change the paradigm of public health information dissemination," Mr Steele.

The researchers sampled more than 4,700 tweets from 114 Australian government, for-profit and non-profit health-related organisations. Each tweet was clustered according to the health condition mentioned, type of information provided, replies or retweets as well as attachment of a hyperlink.

Fifty-nine per cent of the sampled tweets were non-condition specific, followed by tweets about mental health, cancer, and fitness and nutrition.

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