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April 9, 2014

Could Behavioral Medicine Lead the Web Data Revolution?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California
  • 2Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • 3Human Language Technology Center of Excellence, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2014;311(14):1399-1400. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.1505

Digital footprints left on search engines, social media, and social networking sites can be aggregated and analyzed as health proxies, yielding anonymous and instantaneous insights. At present, nearly all the existing work has focused on acute diseases. This means the value added from web surveillance is reduced because the effectiveness of even high-profile systems such as Google Flu Trends are inferior to already strong traditional surveillance.1 Conversely, the future of web surveillance is promising in an area where traditional surveillance is largely incomplete: behavioral medicine, a multidisciplinary field incorporating medicine, social science, and public health and focusing on health behaviors and mental health.

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