Challenges to Transforming Unconventional Social Media Data into Actionable Knowledge for Public Health Systems during Disasters

Jennifer L. Chan*, Hemant Purohit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Every year, there are larger and more severe disasters and health organizations are struggling to respond with services to keep public health systems running. Making decisions with limited health information can negatively affect response activities and impact morbidity and mortality. An overarching challenge is getting the right health information to the right health service personnel at the right time. As responding agencies engage in social media (eg, Twitter, Facebook) to communicate with the public, new opportunities emerge to leverage this non-traditional information for improved situational awareness. Transforming these big data is dependent on computers to process and filter content for health information categories relevant to health responders. To enable a more health-focused approach to social media analysis during disasters, 2 major research challenges should be addressed: (1) advancing methodologies to extract relevant information for health services and creating dynamic knowledge bases that address both the global and US disaster contexts, and (2) expanding social media research for disaster informatics to focus on health response activities. There is a lack of attention on health-focused social media research beyond epidemiologic surveillance. Future research will require approaches that address challenges of domain-aware, including multilingual language understanding in artificial intelligence for disaster health information extraction. New research will need to focus on the primary goal of health providers, whose priority is to get the right health information to the right medical and public health service personnel at the right time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Key Words:
  • crisis informatics
  • disasters
  • information management
  • situational awareness
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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