Highlights from PRISM Health Symposium 2023

All photos by Cindy Chew.

The 8th Annual Promoting Research in Social Media and Health Symposium (PRISM) took place at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco on December 7, 2023. Approximately 90 attendees from diverse backgrounds including medicine, public health, research, non-profit organizations, and technology assembled to discover the latest directions in social media and health research.

PRISM founder and co-chair, Dr. Urmimala Sarkar, Professor at UCSF, began with a land acknowledgment to recognize and respect the Ramaytush Ohlone people as traditional stewards of the land that UCSF sits upon. PRISM co-chair, Dr. Jon-Patrick Allem, Associate Professor at Rutgers University, followed with a brief description of the symposium’s background and goals.


Poster Session

The poster session featured 21 posters covering a diverse range of topics, including public health messaging on social media and resilience to misinformation. These posters presented either research in progress or completed research.


Generative AI in Health Communication and Research

Dr. Charles Senteio, Associate Professor at Rutgers University, described his work on racial inequity in Brazil by using natural language processing (NLP) to analyze nursing notes. He shared that stigmatizing language in clinical records can influence care decisions and undermine trust. Dr. Senteio and the study team seek to provide insights to inform circumstances in which patients are not receiving equitable care and ultimately debias generative AI in medical settings.

Dr. Johannes Eichstaedt, Assistant Professor at Stanford University, presented his research in measuring and improving mental health with social media and large language models (LLM). In one study examining Facebook statuses of patients with and without a diagnosis of depression in their medical records, he found that language-based prediction models performed similarly to screening surveys in predicting a future occurrence of depression in their medical records. Dr. Eichstaedt also spoke about his work on longitudinal measurement of mental health at the population level and LLM use in psychotherapy.


Shifts in Data Access

Thomas Bukowski, Digital/Social Media Health Research Analyst at RTI International, shared an overview of social media listening platforms. He presented the pros and cons of using such platforms in research and imparted recommendations on how to choose the best tools. He offered the perspective that social media listening platforms can be thought of as another data source, requiring minimal programming expertise.

Dr. Sherry Emery, Senior Fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, spoke about conducting social media research in a post-Twitter world. She compared public content data access tools from various social media platforms and shared her study triangulating social media discourse about the menthol cigarette ban with the lived experience of communities most affected by this ban. She concluded with a call to action: “to cultivate broad community consensus and outreach to educate researchers, funders, IRBs, and reviewers.”


Dr. Valentin Danchev, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at Queen Mary University of London, discussed data governance of social media data. He talked about the different structures of data governance and the timeline of access to platform APIs over the past decade. Dr. Danchev also spoke on the EU’s Digital Service Act, which regulates the provision of data access by social media platforms and other online platforms.

Dr. Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, a Program Director at the National Cancer Institute, presented her findings from surveying social media researchers in September 2023. From the 11 responses received, challenges regarding access to/use of social media data and the NIH grant application/IRB review process were identified. Dr. Chou also offered recommendations to social media and health researchers on navigating the current socio-technical environment.


Rapid-Fire Session

This session featured four rapid-fire presentations covering tobacco-related social media data, trust in medical and social media sources about cannabis by race and ethnicity, ghosting and gaslighting in adolescents, and mitigating health misinformation.


Corporate Influences in Adolescent Health

Dr. Jenny Radesky, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, described her research on children’s experience with media and digital environments. She found that young children spend more time on YouTube and YouTube Kids than any other space online and that such platforms promote inappropriate advertisements even on age-appropriate videos. Dr. Radesky further discussed how design choices on social media are driven by business objectives and in turn influence the media posted by content creators.

Dr. Candice Odgers, Professor at UC Irvine, presented her work on adolescent mental health in the digital age. She found that despite strong self-reported sentiment by teenagers that there was impairment or addiction related to their digital technology use, there were few robust associations between social media use and academic and psychological well-being. Dr. Odgers emphasized the need for youth-centered mental health support in digital spaces.

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Dr. Pamela Ling, Professor at UCSF, spoke about tobacco industry marketing strategies to target young people through social media. She found that peer crowd-based targeting in e-cigarette advertisements, in which the lifestyle/social identities of the individuals featured in the advertisement matched that of the target audience, had no effect on current e-cigarette users but increased the evaluation of the ad and product for non-users. She also shared her findings comparing the effect of clear, ambiguous, and no sponsorship disclosures on e-cigarette Instagram posts.

Dr. Omni Cassidy, Assistant Professor at NYU, shared her work on racially-targeted food and beverage marketing in the digital environment. Dr. Cassidy highlighted that Black youth see twice as many unhealthy product advertisements compared to white youth. She found that social media accounts of food and beverage brands have disproportionately more Black and Latinx followers than white followers. Further, she found that racially-targeted marketing practices are positively associated with the percentage of Black followers and negatively associated with white followers of food and beverage brands.

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PRISM 2023 Awards

Best Rapid-Fire Presentation by a non-trainee: Meredith Meacham
Best Rapid-Fire Presentation by a trainee: Elyse Thulin
Best Poster Presentation by a non-trainee: Pamela Ling
Best Poster Presentation by a trainee: Ryan Moore

Special thanks to our sponsors (UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF CVP, UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics); steering committee (Dr. Urmimala Sarkar, Dr. Jon Patrick-Allem, Dr. Philip Massey, Dr. Sylvia Chou, Dr. Valentin Danchev, Dr. Michael Deiner, Dr. Tim Mackey, Dr. Meredith Meacham, Dr. Thu Nguyen, Dr. Molly Waring, Thomas Bukowski, Dr. Cesar Escobar-Viera, Dr. Sunny Liu, Dr. Pamela Ling, Dr. Alex Russell, Dr. Elyse Thulin, Dr. Erin Vogel); event staff (Leslie Avilez, Marika Dy, Faviola Garcia, Christian Gutierrez, Sara Guzman-Estrada, Vlad Honcharov, Cindy Kim, Isabel Luna, Monica Naranjo, Kristan Olazo, Nilpa Shah, Jeanette Wong, Andersen Yang); MBCC staff (Darla Parks, Nick Vogel, Emily Lefson); Fog City Audio Visual (Doug Watson); photographer (Cindy Chew); and catering (Arguello Catering).