Applying network science for public health: Toward 'social' communication strategies
with Berkman Fellow, Brittany Seymour
Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard Law School Campus
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C
The social nature of today’s Internet is creating new public health and policy challenges. For example, the US in 2014 experienced the largest measles outbreak in nearly a generation, which led to the passing of the nation's most conservative vaccine legislation, eliminating the personal belief exemption in California. Research has identified online misinformation about vaccines as one of the risk factors for this outbreak. Through three big data case analyses on water fluoridation, the Ebola epidemic, and childhood vaccinations, we analyze the influence of scientific evidence and the influence of “social proof,” a form of imitation where individuals ascribe to the behavior of others in order to resolve uncertainty. Our work aims to answer the question, how can we employ network science to develop social communication strategies for public health that build on the strengths and opportunities provided by today's Internet? In other words, instead of asking "How can we share our message with our target audience?" should we be asking "How can our target audience share our message?"
Dr. Brittany Seymour is an Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She holds a full-time appointment in the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology and the Office of Global and Community Health. She earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and completed her Masters in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and Population. Her overall research focus is in interdisciplinary approaches for oral health improvement at the global level through prevention, policy, and health promotion. She has held Fellowships at the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and conducts funded research on how misinformation online impacts important public health programs such as community water fluoridation and childhood vaccinations. She is a member of the American Public Health Association and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry where she holds a position with the Council on Practice. She is the Director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s Global Oral Health Interest Group and was a contributing author to the FDI World Dental Federation’s Oral Health Atlas 2nd Edition. Dr. Seymour has won numerous honors and awards, including the Award for Community Dentistry and Dental Public Health and the Herschel St. Horowitz scholarship by the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, and an Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award from HSDM.
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