Improving public health communication through data science and media analytics

The Challenge

Life-saving public health messages aren’t being heard, trusted and adopted in the US today.

Our media and political environment is hyper-fragmented, resulting in harmful rumors, incomplete information, misconceptions and misinformation that spread quickly and indiscriminately.

Sources of trustworthy public health information are struggling to break through in this environment, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and often at the cost of many thousands of human lives.

Our Mission

Our mission is to build a 21st-century public health communications system that has the intelligence to navigate our fragmented media landscape, the humanity to acknowledge diverse experiences, and the power to inspire collective, effective action.

Our Capabilities

MAPPING

Assessing diverse groups’ exposure to public health guidance as well as misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding

Listening and surveying to better understand community needs for targeting interventions.

CONNECTING

Identifying and collaborating with a network of community influencers to communicate guidance in trusted ways.

HealthPULSE leverages social listening and analytics capabilities developed in the Lab for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab to understand public health messaging exposure within diverse, interest-based audience segments.

This data visualization shows individuals Twitter influencers (yellow) and the segments to which they connect (blue). Using this capability, our team can help public health communicators develop and distribute effective public health messaging to the audiences who need this information the most.

Applications

Applications

Application of 21st-Century Public Health Communication System

An “infodemic” and misinformation are muddling effective messaging about COVID-19.

Many public health messengers do not have effective communication tools for this fragmented media and political environment which presents new opportunities for innovative partnerships to engage the public in new ways to improve health outcomes.

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ATLANTA COVID-19 INITIATIVE

The Task Force for Global Health

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An emerging, urgent effort to develop and deliver public health messaging in Atlanta communities that is relevant, trusted and therefore effective at motivating healthy behavior. LSM and New America are working with The Task Force to:

  • Track COVID-related information and misinformation through Atlanta media and community networks.
  • Draft public health messages aligned with specific Atlanta communities based on media and community analytics.
  • Identify trusted influencers and channels for communicating this messaging within these communities.
  • Measure the impact of these communications on public health behavior.
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#BeatTheVirus

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An effective, dynamically distributed, and responsive social media campaign designed to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cultural influencers share with diverse communities easily understood, science-grounded messaging on proven public health practices.

  • Surface Twitter audience segments that are underexposed exposed to COVID-19 public health messaging using our analytics.
  • Influencer tweets during the course of the campaign received more than 600 million social media impressions.
  • Use our tools to identify specific influencers within those underexposed communities and invite them to share #BTV messaging.
  • VISIT WEBSITE

Team

Led by MIT and reflecting the Media Lab’s cross-disciplinary approach to innovation, HealthPULSE is made possible by a dedicated coalition of collaborators across public health, research, media, technology, and professional services.

Under the direction of Professor Deb Roy, the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab is leading the initiative and developing cutting-edge analytics and tools to address public health messaging needs surfaced by the pandemic.

Dr. Susan Blumenthal, HealthPULSE’s Public Health Director, is the former US Assistant Surgeon General and Director of the Health Innovations Lab at New America. She brings critical public health expertise to the initiative as well as a cross-institutional network of public health experts. She also advises on the design of the overall system.

McKinsey & Company is a strategic collaborator providing support for building up the initiative’s infrastructure as well as developing workflows and processes to ensure the long-term success of HealthPULSE.

HealthPULSE also relies on a network of external organizations — including Twitter, Cortico, and HarrisX — that collect and provide data and support the distribution of this important work.

Leadership

Deb Roy

Deb Roy

MIT Media Lab

Susan Blumenthal

Susan Blumenthal

New America | MIT Visiting Professor

Russell Stevens

Russell Stevens

MIT Media Lab

Senior advisors

Stephen Ansolabehere

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University

Philip Bennett

Philip Bennett

FRONTLINE

Kathy Cramer

Kathy Cramer

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Andrew Heyward

Andrew Heyward

MIT Media Lab

Parisa Parsa

Parisa Parsa

Cortico | Local Voices Network

Team

Sarah Ballinger

MIT Media Lab

Doug Beeferman

MIT Media Lab

Will Brannon

MIT Media Lab

Wes Chow

MIT Media Lab

Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou

MIT Media Lab

Sneha Makini

MIT Media Lab

Bridgit Mendler

MIT Media Lab

Perris Richter

MIT Media Lab

Brandon Roy

MIT Media Lab

Sinclair Target

MIT Media Lab

Spencer Yen

MIT Media Lab

Collaborators

Ellen Hoffman

MIT Media Lab

David Kong

MIT Media Lab

Ceasar McDowell

MIT Media Lab | MIT Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning

Emily Stark

New America

Prashanth Vijayaraghavan

MIT Media Lab

Lily Xie

MIT Media Lab

Contact Us

If you are interested in collaborating, or have any questions about HealthPULSE, please complete this form and a team member will be contact you as soon as possible.

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