Harris focuses on closing the gap between discovery and delivery in her methodological and substantive areas of research, and in her teaching and service. Her methodological area of expertise is social network analysis, with a particular interest in statistical modeling of social networks, which she has used to identify gaps in path between discovery and delivery in scientific research and public health practice.
Her recent projects focus on the use of Twitter and other social media platforms as a way to conduct public health surveillance and improve connections between local health departments and their constituents. In recent years, Harris has collaborated with the Chicago Department of Public Health and the City of St. Louis Department of Health to evaluate and implement a new machine-learning based Twitter tool that identifies possible foodborne illness and encourages reporting local constituents.
Harris teaches biostatistics courses including “Foundations of Biostatistics,” “Applied Linear Modeling,” and “Introduction to the R Statistical Programming Language and Environment.” Harris is also the co-director of the StatLab, a peer tutoring system for Brown School students to support success in quantitative courses.
Foodborne illness is a serious and preventable public health problem, affecting one in six Americans and costing an estimated $50 billion annually. As local health departments adopt new tools that monitor Twitter for tweets about food poisoning, a study from Washington University in St. Louis is the first to examine practitioner perceptions of this technology.
Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. citizens gets food poisoning every year, but very few report it. Monitoring Twitter for food-poisoning tweets and replying to them could improve foodborne illness reporting, according to a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
An analysis of Twitter hashtag use on the subject of diabetes provides new insights about spreading health information through social media. The study, led by Jenine Harris, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, looked at the hashtag #diabetes and its interaction with two Twitter measures of engagement, retweeting and favoriting. The study found retweeting and favoriting was significantly lower for tweets about the number or percentage of people with diabetes, while favoriting was higher for tweets about health problems associated with diabetes.
Social media marketing strategies present both
challenges and opportunities for public health professionals. While
misinformation can be spread, social media does provide an effective way
of reaching large audiences. Situational analysis by researchers
at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis of a recent
social media campaign by the Chicago Department of Public Health
suggests that public health organizations need to pay close attention to
how they disseminate information, and also to the response the campaign
An estimated 55 million to 105 million people in the United States suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in costs of $2-$4 billion annually. What if Twitter could be used to track those cases and more quickly identify the source of the problem? A new analysis by a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis Brown School shows that new technology might better allow health departments to engage with the public to improve foodborne illness surveillance.