Use of Facebook by Local Health Departments: Usage and Activity Area

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Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research






Background: Recent research shows that social media offer unprecedented opportunities for communications with stakeholders in public health and other industries.

Purpose: This study examines the manner in which U.S. local health departments (LHDs) use Facebook. Public health program themes discussed on Facebook profiles of LHDs were analyzed and ranked by the frequency of mentions on Facebook.

Methods: LHDs included in the study were those indicating use of Facebook in the 2010 National Profile of Local Health Departments. Using the list from the profile study, the primary data from LHDs’ public Facebook profiles were collected over a period of 4 months. A content analysis of the active Facebook profiles was performed; this identified themes that were discussed in the Facebook posts by LHDs and also determined the level of maintenance of LHDs’ Facebook profile.

Results: Nineteen public health themes were identified that were being discussed by LHDs. Different levels of maintenance of Facebook profiles was also noted.

Implications: Social media can make a potential difference in providing the essential public health services of informing, educating, and empowering people about health issues, and mobilize community partnerships.