NEWS20 May 2013

Could ‘likes’ plug health knowledge gap?

Data analytics North America

US — Research consultancy firm Sample Solutions has unveiled research based on billions of ‘likes’ on social network Facebook.

The company claimed that analysing ‘likes’ could significantly supplement scarce government data on the behavioural drivers of cancer, diabetes, obesity and other ailments.

The research, in collaboration with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, collected Facebook data using the Facebook Advertising application-programming interface in February 2013, aggregating the number of users who express interest in certain categories of items by ZIP code. This ZIP code data was then aggregated to the county level to allow for direct comparisons to government health data.

As a result, Sample Solutions said that Facebook users’ ‘likes’ patterns correlated heavily with the actual presence of many serious health conditions.

“Our analysis, along with additional research based on online data, will help local, state and federal governments to understand the drivers behind such disparities,” said Sample Solutions president Steve Gittelman. “Our ultimate goal is to provide actionable intelligence that directly impacts government spending and public policy at a fraction of the cost of traditional research.”