There are big geographic disparities in health care.
Photograph by Martin Barraud—Getty Images/Caiaimage
By Valentina Zarya
March 28, 2016

If you’re one of the 320 million people that use Twitter, you know that the social media site can be a useful tool in figuring out how people around the world feel about a particular news story or topic.

Now, researchers at Bay Alarm Medical are taking this idea a step further, using Twitter’s data to understand how people are feeling from a health standpoint. Combing through 500,000 tweets, the researchers have been able to determine which states and cities tweet the most about illness.

The researchers found that Ohio, Texas, and Nevada are the most likely to tweet about being sick, using key words like “I’m sick,” “flu,” and “fever.”According to America’s Health Rankings, a list compiled by the American Public Health Association (APHA), these states are not the sickest in the country, but they are not exactly healthy. Ohio was no. 39 on the APHA’s rankings, Texas was no. 34, and Nevada was no. 38 out of 50.

The cities that tweet the most about being ill, on the other hand, are New Orleans, La., Miami, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga. APHA ranks Louisiana as the least healthy state in the U.S.—it is also the only state on Bay Alarm’s rankings to have two cities in the top ten least healthy cities (Baton Rouge was ranked no. 7).

While the data gleaned from Tweets doesn’t correlate exactly to the APHA’s health rankings—which are based on a combination of individual behaviors, community and environmental factors, state health policy, and clinical care—it does shed light on how people around the country talk about their health.

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