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Question 2: How could this information be incorporated into public health surveillance systems?
Video length: 01:37
(Dr. Norm Vinson sits in front of a bookcase. He addresses the camera.)
There are studies that have been done already that examine people’s attitudes towards, say, vaccination and people’s health, through surveillance specifically of social media. So from a technical perspective it's not impossible, it's not even particularly difficult. However I'm not sure that it's actually being done right now on the practical side. So it's not necessarily done in practice.
The problem with this kind of surveillance is the question of whether or not it's really worth the effort and worth the cost. So there are already systems that do surveillance based on emergency room visits, and these systems exist across the United States and there are a lot of systems — well there is one system that's very broadly spread over Ontario that does this kind of thing. However, those systems are still a little bit controversial in the sense it's not clear that the effort is worth the cost, or that the system rather is worth the cost. Because first there's implementation cost, and then there's a cost that occurs whenever an alarm has to be investigated, and if there are lots of false alarms, well that's a high cost. So there's still a little bit of controversy, even for these emergency room visit systems and I think that kind of controversy is going to apply as well to social media surveillance.
(Text on screen: National Research Council Canada. Copyright Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by National Research Council of Canada, 2011)
ISSN 1927-0275 = Dimensions (Ottawa. Online)