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March 5, 2018

In Quartz, Elaine Nsoesie, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discusses how geotagged social media is becoming increasingly useful to public health researchers. She points to research led by Dr. Quynh Nguyen (assistant professor, EPIB) that was published in the American Journal of Public Health, which took advantage of the geolocation feature on Twitter to study how expressions of happiness, food choices (healthy vs. unhealthy) and interests in physical activity correlated with obesity prevalence across 3,135 US counties. She also points to a 2013 study showing that obesity rates tend to be lower in areas where people tend to "like" physical activities on Facebook. Dr. Nsoesie says, "The agreement between these studies suggest that social media posts of food and exercise can help us better understand obesity prevalence in the US. Public health practitioners could combine these real-time data with information obtained from surveys, hospital visits and other sources to design community-based interventions to reduce obesity rates."

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Quartz: What can Twitter and Facebook tell us about obesity in the United States?

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Quynh Nguyen