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January 22, 2019

Social Determinants of Health in the Digital Age: Determining the Source Code for Nurture

Author Affiliations
  • 1Facebook Inc, Menlo Park, California
  • 2Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  • 3American College of Cardiology, Washington, DC
  • 4Department of Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver
  • 5Departments of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Public Health, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 6Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA. 2019;321(3):247-248. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19763

The scope and types of data available in social networks represent growing potential resources for deciphering and addressing the social determinants of health. Between 2005 and 2018, the use of social media among individuals in the United States increased from 5% to 69%.1 In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that Facebook was the most popular platform, used by 68% of the US population (76% of whom visited the site daily, engaging for nearly an hour a day), followed by Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter.1 Social media user profiles represent archives of people’s activities and connections, curated in real time. Furthermore, the relationships between and among users are dynamic social network structures that intertwine people, places, and their interests.2 This information has the potential to improve understanding of the social determinants of health in a deeper way than prior data sources have ever allowed, and, in turn, identify novel targets that could meaningfully influence health outcomes.

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    1 Comment for this article
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    Facebook wants to link social media data with clinical and health outcomes. What could possibly go wrong?
    Ellen Matloff, MS Genetic Counseling | My Gene Counsel, LLC
    Dear Dr. Abnousi,

    Before Facebook asks to link social media data with users' clinical and health outcomes, you've got a lot of work to do. The Facebook privacy breeches in general, and decisions around how/if to report and correct them, has left your users concerned. The privacy issues for those patients who trusted Facebook to house their private support groups has left patient communities not only concerned, but scared:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenmatloff/2018/07/29/facebook-violates-trust-of-private-patient-groups/#513958901524

    Before you even consider asking health care providers or patients to share any more data with Facebook you need to prove to all of us that
    you are trustworthy.

    Ellen Matloff, MS, CGC
    My Gene Counsel
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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