Master’s Defense – Palak Matta

Candidate: Palak Matta

Master of Science in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence 

Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science

Date:   Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Time:   10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Place:  Exploratory Hall 2304

 

TITLE: ASSISTING HEALTH POLICY MAKERS IN FIGHTING OPIOID CRISIS USING TWITTER

Committee:

Thesis Director: Dr. Sven Fuhrmann

Committee Members: Dr. Arie Croitoru and Dr. Matthew Rice

ABSTRACT

In recent years social media has become an integral part of everybody lives where people are using networking sites to discuss and share their personal and valuable information. On the other hand, health care professionals are using these services to engage patients, provide education, and patient care, and promote public health programs. This valuable information can be used to gain insights on information flow and social networking within a society. The President of the United States declared the country under public health emergency in regard to an opioid crisis in October 2017. The Opioid crisis has become a national issue affecting individuals, families, communities, and states where each individual state suffers the burden of this crisis. A significant toll is paid by the state to cover the cost related to criminal justice, health care, education, social welfare, public welfare, and lost productivity.  In this study, we intended to learn how social media services can be used to help health lawmakers in creating policies. The thesis aims to identify socio-demographic factors and significant topics related to opioid overdose death rates in the U.S. by analyzing opioid-related chatter using social media analysis at state level. We identified 25 states as our area of study in the U.S. by comparing drug overdose death rate with opioid prescription rate for 2017 and collected Twitter data for three months period November 2017 to January 2018. Based on this data, states with similar topics were identified where topics contained keywords signifying continual chatter to raise awareness and provide treatment to the community in regard to drug overdose and addiction specifically for opioids.

In addition, these states shared the same characteristics for demographics which indicated that areas were higher number of drug overdose deaths are occurring are also areas where chatter in social media is also prevalent. These results support the premise that social media specifically Twitter can be used as a tool to increase awareness, provide education and change health care policies.