Social media adoption in local health departments nationwide

Am J Public Health. 2013 Sep;103(9):1700-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301166. Epub 2013 Jul 18.


Objectives: We examined whether characteristics of local health departments (LHD) and their geographic region were associated with using Facebook and Twitter. We also examined the number of tweets per month for Twitter accounts as an indicator of social media use by LHDs.

Methods: In 2012, we searched for Facebook and Twitter accounts for 2565 LHDs nationwide, and collected adoption date and number of connections for each account. Number of tweets sent indicated LHD use of social media. LHDs were classified as innovators, early adopters, or nonadopters. Characteristics of LHDs were compared across adoption categories, and we examined geographic characteristics, connections, and use.

Results: Twenty-four percent of LHDs had Facebook, 8% had Twitter, and 7% had both. LHDs serving larger populations were more likely to be innovators, tweeted more often, and had more social media connections. Frequency of tweeting was not associated with adoption category. There were differences in adoption across geographic regions, with western states more likely to be innovators. Innovation was also higher in states where the state health department adopted social media.

Conclusions: Social media has the potential to aid LHDs in disseminating information across the public health system. More evidence is needed to develop best practices for this emerging tool.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Local Government*
  • Public Health Administration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • State Government*
  • United States / epidemiology