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Abstract

Web-based social media sites are increasingly being used by the public to find and share health information. Public health organizations, including state health departments (SHDs), have begun adopting social media to disseminate health information to consumers. The purpose of this study was to examine adoption patterns and characteristics associated with social media adoption in SHDs across the U.S. In early 2012, we used web searches to identify which SHDs had adopted Facebook or Twitter and the adoption date. Adoption of social media has grown steadily since 2008, with 28 SHDs using Facebook and 41 using Twitter as of February 2012. We used 2010 profile data from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to compare characteristics of adopters and non-adopters. While there were few significant differences, trends showed that adopting SHDs tended to be in more populated states with more urban residents and higher levels of internet access than non-adopters. Adopting health departments tended to have higher per capita health department expenditures, more educated health department leadership, more staff, and younger staff than non-adopters. SHDs adopting Facebook/Twitter early may be good partners in developing and disseminating social media public health strategies. More evidence is needed regarding current and effective uses of social media for public health practice.