Social Media Mining to Inform Park Use and Public Health Decision-Making

Research Question:

Are tweets about parks and public health a valid source of data to inform practitioner decision-making about related programs, policies, and design?

NLI’s Director, Deepti Adlakha, PhD along with colleagues from the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department – Aaron Hipp, PhD, Jason Bocarro, PhD, Laura Tateosian, PhD, and Jing-Huei Huang, PhD – were awarded an NC State University Data Science Academy seed grant titled, Social media mining to inform park use and public health decision-making.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of access and use of green spaces. The characteristics of these environments (e.g., access to parks, trails, and green space) may have become more salient and influential on people’s physical and psychosocial health and well-being. The pandemic has also exacerbated the downward trends in survey response rate and increased survey fatigue. Parks and recreation and public health professionals face challenges in recruiting and responding to diverse voices in their communities to deliver the programs, policies, and spaces desired.

Emerging technologies have the potential to advance the assessment of human interaction with urban green spaces. For example, social networks and social media systems may provide a valuable source of social and behavioral science data to help assess how, when and why people use them, what activities occur within them, which areas are popular, and how people feel while using them. This information can be used to understand park use and preferences, which is useful for appropriating parks, recreation, and public health resources.

This seed funding brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to explore the feasibility of social media data, specifically Twitter data, to inform programming and decision-making by park and community health professionals.