February 2022 Newsletter


UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media, 6th Annual Conference

6th Annual Conference, May 19-20, 2022
Telehealth and Remote Care in a Post-Pandemic World

Telehealth utilization grew by 78 fold during the pandemic as the need for safe means to access and deliver healthcare was greater than ever. This rapid expansion of telehealth was enabled by regulatory changes, some temporary and some permanent, which expanded reimbursement for telehealth-delivered care. Given that patient and provider willingness to use telehealth and the skills to do so have increased, a roadmap is now needed for virtual care models that serve the goals of improving access to care, outcomes, and affordability. This virtual conference will feature topics including health equity, asynchronous interventions and care, and telehealth and the patient experience.

Abstract Submissions: Deadline Monday, March 14th, 12AM PT
Registration open now until May 17, 2022 11:59 PM ET

International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (ISRII) 11th Scientific Meeting

Pittsburgh, PA | September 19-21, 2022
Storm Clouds and Silver Linings: How Digital Technologies Have Helped Us Weather the COVID Pandemic

Digital health has evolved tremendously since 2004 when ISRII held its first Scientific Meeting. Back then, the release of the first iPhone that launched the modern smartphone era was still three years away, and Internet interventions have expanded to encompass the fields of mobile health, social media, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, wearables, and more. The theme for ISRII’s 11th Scientific Meeting is Storm Clouds and Silver Linings: How Digital Technologies Have Helped Us Weather the COVID Pandemic. Attend ISRII 11 to stay informed on the latest international developments and trends in digital health, network with colleagues, and share your research! 

Call for Papers/Abstracts will open in late February
Early Registration will open March – June 2022


The Mercury Project

Social Science Research Council’s new initiative, the Mercury Project, is offering grants to research teams to address one of two research objectives using rigorous and creative methods over three years:

  1. Estimate the causal impacts of mis- and disinformation on online and offline outcomes in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, including health, economic, and/or social outcomes, differential impacts across socio-demographic groups, and quantifying the global costs of those impacts.
  2. Estimate the causal impacts of online or offline interventions in the United States, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to increase uptake of Covid-19 vaccines and other recommended public health measures by countering mis- and disinformation, including interventions that target the producers or the consumers of mis- and disinformation, or that increase confidence in reliable information.

Full application details here: https://www.ssrc.org/programs/the-mercury-project/call-for-proposals/


Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Public Health and Technology, University of Arkansas

The Postdoctoral Fellow in Public Health will work under the supervision of PRISM Steering Committee member, Dr. Philip Massey (Director of the Center for Public Health and Technology and Associate Professor of Public Health) on social media and health research. This is a one-year appointment, renewable based on the need for the position, availability of funding, and continued satisfactory level of performance in the role. Training will be in digital and social media health communication including vaccine hesitancy, substance use, online ethics, global health, and more. Come join our growing team!

This opportunity for mentored career development and research time will allow the postdoc to grow as a scientist and prepare themselves for the job market.

Apply here: https://uasys.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/UASYS/job/Fayetteville/Postdoctoral-Fellow-in-Public-Health_R0009381

For questions, reach out to Dr. Philip Massey at [email protected].


Updated advertising restrictions on Meta platforms
By Cesar Escobar-Viera (PRISM Steering Committee Member)

In January of this year, Meta (formerly known as Facebook, Inc) announced new advertising restrictions on all Meta-owned platforms. These updates eliminate the ability to target ads by certain specific interest topics. For example, ads cannot target the “LGBT” interest anymore. This is potentially challenging for researchers who utilize social media platforms for participant recruitment. Some alternative ways to target certain audiences without being penalized by Facebook include: 

  1. Pixels (https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/facebook-ads-pixel): A pixel is a unique ID number embedded into the code of your website that tracks users who visit your webpage. It also segments who clicks on survey links, or fills out forms. Audiences are created and modified through iterative snapshots of who visits your landing page. Access to your website's code is necessary for this tracking feature. 
  2. Segmented Targeted Interests (https://www.facebook.com/business/ads/ad-targeting): Though not ideal, Facebook still offers some targeted interests for ads.  

Our team will continue to monitor best practices given the new structure. We welcome other teams to share best practices as we all navigate these changes.

Call for Papers

JMIR Publications is delighted to announce a collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) in publishing a theme issue entitled Chatbots and COVID-19". Deadline is April 30, 2022

Recent Social Media and Health Publications

Benis A, Chatsubi A, Levner E, Ashkenazi S. Change in Threads on Twitter Regarding Influenza, Vaccines, and Vaccination During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Artificial Intelligence–Based Infodemiology Study. JMIR Infodemiology 2021;1(1):e31983. doi: 10.2196/31983. PMID: 34693212. PMCID: 8521455

This paper sought to define an artificial intelligence–based approach to elucidate how threads on Twitter on influenza vaccination changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collecting and analyzing 2,782,720 tweets between December 30, 2019, and April 30, 2021, it was found that the prevalence of the terms vaccine and vaccination increased over 2020, and that “flu” and “covid” occurrences were inversely correlated as “flu” disappeared over time from the tweets.

Shah N, Nali M, Bardier C, Li J, Maroulis J, Cuomo R, Mackey TK. Applying topic modelling and qualitative content analysis to identify and characterise ENDS product promotion and sales on Instagram. Tob Control. 2021 Dec 2:tobaccocontrol-2021-056937. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056937. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34857646. 

Co-authored by PRISM Steering Committee member, Dr. Timothy Mackey, this study used unsupervised machine learning to identify and characterize sale offers of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and associate products on Instagram. Identified posts originated from 20 different countries and were roughly split between individual (46.3%) and retail sellers (43.4%), with linked online sellers (8.8%) representing a smaller volume. ENDS products most frequently offered for sale were flavoured e-liquids (53.0%) and vaping devices (20.5%). Online sellers offering flavoured e-liquids were less likely to use age verification at point of purchase (29% vs 64%) compared with other products.

Haupt MR, Weiss SM, Chiu M, Cuomo R, Chein JM, Mackey TK. Psychological and situational profiles of social distance compliance during COVID-19. J Communn Healthc. 2022 Feb 1. Doi: 10.1080/17538068.2022.2026055.

In this paper co-authored by PRISM Steering Committee member, Dr. Timothy Mackey, the study team analyzed frequency of behavior reconceptualized as ‘risky’ by CDC public health guidelines released on 30 March 2020. Profiles of individuals were identified using cluster analysis from a data-driven persona framework, using only situational and dispositional (i.e. psychological) variable. Profiles engaged in high-risk behaviors were more likely required to work on-site and report higher financial impact related to the pandemic. Applying the profile approach facilitates personalized communications tailored to the psychological and situational circumstances of each profile that can promote compliance with public health guidelines and guide policy decisions.

Nali MC, Purushothaman V, Li J, Mackey TK. Characterizing California licensure status and tobacco user experience with adverse events using Yelp data. Prev Med Rep. 2022 Apr;26. Doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101720. Epub ahead of print.

This study co-authored by PRISM Steering Committee member, Dr. Timothy Mackey, cross-referenced California Department of Tax and Fee Administration licensed tobacco, vape, and head shop retail stores with publicly available business listings on Yelp to identify licensed and unlicensed stores in California. On Yelp, licensed businesses accounted for 50% licensed individual retailers 32%, and suspected unlicensed storefronts 19%. Businesses and individuals with a state tobacco retail license received a higher average rating from Yelp users compared to unlicensed shops. Additionally, unique comments were reviewed, with discussion about defective and counterfeit products, adverse events including coughing, difficulty breathing, and reports of hospitalization detected. In contrast, comments about licensed stores predominantly discussed customer service issues.