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Public awareness of health issues after the Surgeon General tweets

Young, Ryan
Roddy, Kevin
Torgerson, Trevor
Keener, Ashley
Vassar, Matt

Health information distributed on social media may benefit public health by aiding in disease management and increasing awareness, however, not all information disseminated on social media is reliable. Therefore, a need exists for credible, evidence-based information that is accessible by the public. In the United States, the Surgeon General serves as the highest public health official and could serve as a solution to this need. In our study, we used Google Trends to evaluate the search interest of topics related to tweets sent out by the Surgeon General. We then used an autoregressive integrated moving algorithm to determine whether the tweets were associated with search volumes that were greater than the expected search volumes without the tweet. Thirteen tweets were analyzed and a significant positive mean search interest was found for only 2 tweets. One of the significant tweets had a mean search interest increase of 7.50% (95% CI, 0.8 - 14.2), which was a tweet the Surgeon General retweeted from another account. Given the public's limited engagement with the Surgeon General's current Twitter account, strategies to increase the number of followers is greatly needed if the Surgeon General is to make effective use of these outlets. One viable solution to the Surgeon General reaching a greater audience may be through celebrity partnerships.