How Public Health Agencies Break through COVID-19 Conversations: A Strategic Network Approach to Public Engagement

Hye Min Kim, Adam J. Saffer, Wenlin Liu, Jingyi Sun, Yiqi Li, Lichen Zhen, Aimei Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In times of public health emergencies, health agencies need to engage and communicate with the public in real-time to share updates and accurate information. This is especially the case for the COVID-19 pandemic where public engagement can potentially save lives and flatten the curve. This paper considers how the use of interactive features and strategic network positions of health agencies on social media influenced their public engagement outcomes. Specifically, we analyzed 203 U.S. public health agencies’ Twitter activity and the public engagement they received by extracting data from a large-scale Twitter dataset collected from January 21st to May 31st, 2020. Results show that health agencies’ network position in addition to their two-way communication strategy greatly influenced the level of public engagement with their COVID-19 related content on Twitter. Findings highlight the benefits of strategic social media communication of public health agencies resides not only in how agencies use social media but also in their formation of network position to amplify their visibility. As official sources of health and risk information, public health agencies should coordinate their social media communication efforts to strategically position themselves in advantageous network positions to augment public engagement outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1276-1284
Number of pages9
JournalHealth communication
Issue number10
Early online dateFeb 16 2021
StatePublished - Feb 16 2021

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© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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