An Appraisal of Social Network Theory and Analysis as Applied to Public Health: Challenges and Opportunities

Thomas W. Valente, Stephanie R. Pitts
2017 Annual Review of Public Health  
The use of social network theory and analysis methods as applied to public health has expanded greatly in the past decade, yielding a significant academic literature that spans almost every conceivable health issue. This review identifies several important theoretical challenges that confront the field but also provides opportunities for new research. These challenges include (a) measuring network influences, (b) identifying appropriate influence mechanisms, (c) the impact of social media and
more » ... social media and computerized communications, (d ) the role of networks in evaluating public health interventions, and (e) ethics. Next steps for the field are outlined and the need for funding is emphasized. Recently developed network analysis techniques, technological innovations in communication, and changes in theoretical perspectives to include a focus on social and environmental behavioral influences have created opportunities for new theory and ever broader application of social networks to public health topics.
doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031816-044528 pmid:27992729 fatcat:3kspjorxxbeyvj34txjn66n2fa