Project Duration:
Prof. Dr. Dr. Till Bärnighausen (Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg,Heidelberg Institute of Global Health (HIGH))

PD Dr. med. Claudia Denkinger (Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg)

Dr. Sven Lautenbach (Universität Heidelberg, Geographisches Institut)

Prof. Dr. Alexander Zipf (Universität Heidelberg, Geographisches Institut)

Dr. Ivonne Morales, MS, MPH (Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg)


Research Project

Harnessing spatiotemporal crowdsourced data to identify key spatial and behavioral factors that inform the design and delivery of targeted public health interventions as a framework for pandemic preparedness

The project is funded by the ministry for research and art (Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst) of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg as part of the project "Kooperation von öffentlichem Gesundheitswesen und Wissenschaft zur Implementierung regionaler Präventionsstrategien", led by HIGH. The project is associated with the Kompetenznetzwerk Präventivmedizin Baden-Württemberg.

The main goal of this study is to leverage spatiotemporal social media data to identify the spatial and behavioral factors that drive disease spread to inform public health surveillance and deliver targeted public health interventions as a framework for pandemic preparedness.

Traditional infectious disease surveillance relies on public health data from official or government sources such as hospitals or census data. Although data from these sources are robust and have been used extensively to understand the drivers of disease spread and build models to predict the dynamics of a disease, they suffer from various limitations, including latency, cost, and insufficient spatial granularity.

In this study, we aim a) to utilize social media data from Baden-Württemberg to define the spatiotemporal characteristics of the public’s perceptions/sentiments as proxies of the public’s reaction towards the pandemic and specific public health interventions (i.e., lockdown, mask wearing, social distancing, vaccination, etc.), as well as b) to describe the spatial distribution of disease clusters and c) identify potential associations among expressed perceptions/sentiments, sociodemographic factors, and geographic clusters of disease.

The knowledge gained from these investigations will enable the rational design of innovative communication and public health strategies that are transferrable to other pathogens with epidemic/pandemic potential that ensure adequate and reliable participation rates in future surveillance and screening approaches.

This study will address the following research questions:

i) What is the spatial and temporal distribution of public reactions (such as sentiments, attitudes, perceptions) expressed via social media sources (i.e., Twitter) towards the COVID-19 pandemic in Baden-Württemberg?

ii) What is the spatial and temporal distribution of SARS-CoV-2 cases in Baden-Württemberg?

iii) What sociodemographic, socioeconomic, and spatial factors may be associated with public reactions and SARS-CoV-2 cases in Baden-Württemberg?

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Latest Revision: 2021-12-04
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