Using Twitter to Enhance the Social Support of Hispanic and Black Dementia Caregivers (Tweet-SS) The prevalence of dementia is higher in Hispanics and Blacks than non-Hispanic Whites. Dementia caregivers often experience social isolation and loneliness as well decreased health status and lower quality of life. Social support interventions have been demonstrated to help mitigate these issues. The expansion of social media use among Hispanics and Blacks, particularly Twitter ? a short message service ? offers great promise for improving social support for Hispanic and Black dementia caregivers. In addition, the availability of large volumes of Tweets and associated metadata make it possible to apply innovative data science methods to characterize engagement in a social support intervention and to assess its influence over time. However, analytic frameworks for analyzing Tweet content and social network structures in Twitter communities are relatively new and evolving rapidly, and there has been limited use of Twitter for intervention delivery. Through federal funding, our research team has conducted substantial research on Hispanic dementia caregiving using Twitter analytics to discover and visualize Tweet content and social network structures and is uniquely qualified to develop, implement, and evaluate a Twitter-based social support intervention for Hispanic and Black dementia caregivers. Informed by Social Exchange Theory, the specific aims of Tweet-SS are to: 1) analyze Tweets specific to dementia caregiving in Blacks and compare Tweet content and social network structures with our prior findings in Hispanics; 2) operationalize a Twitter-based intervention to enhance the social support for Hispanic and Black dementia caregivers; and 3) evaluate the impact of the Twitter-based intervention on Tweet content and social network structures of Hispanic and Black dementia caregiver networks. We will test two hypotheses: (a) There will be significant pre/post-intervention differences in Tweet content and macro-, meso-, and micro-level network structures for Hispanic and Black dementia caregiver networks, and (b) There will be no significant differences in level of engagement with the Twitter-based intervention, Tweet content, and social network structures between Hispanic and Black dementia caregiver networks. The intervention comprises daily posting of social support (informational, instrumental, emotional, appraisal) Tweets with embedded web-based information such as videos tailored to Black and Hispanic dementia caregivers, interactions with the caregiver networks by the bilingual project Tweeter, and a monthly Twitter chat hosted by the research team. We will use a quasi-experimental non-equivalent 2-group design with pre- and post- intervention measures to characterize dementia caregiver engagement with the Twitter-based social support intervention and examine its influence on Tweets content and network structures. Tweet-SS is responsive to the National Institute of Aging Strategic Directions for Research on Aging in terms of populations, domains (behavioral and sociocultural environment), and levels of influence (individual, interpersonal, community).

Public Health Relevance

The social media app, Twitter, holds great promise as a research tool to improve social support among African Americans/Black and Hispanics dementia caregivers, but its potential is yet to be fulfilled. Building upon our substantial preliminary studies with dementia caregivers, we propose to examine the impact of a Twitter-based intervention to provide social support for African American/Black and Hispanic dementia caregivers.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Bhattacharyya, Partha
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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