Thursday, February 11 2016 at 2:00 PM EDT

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Natcher Conference Center,
Building 45, Balcony C
National Institutes of Health Campus
Bethesda, MD


Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) - Communications
National Institutes of Health 



The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR) hosts the 2015-2016 

Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Lecture Series
Title:  To tweet or not to tweet: Community-based participatory research approaches to advance wellness and violence prevention via social media
Date:  Thursday, February 11, 2016
Time:  2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT
Presenter:  Ann Marie White, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center(BIO)
Ms. Melanie Funchess, Director, Mental Health Association(BIO)
Location:  Natcher Conference Center, Building 45, Balcony C
National Institutes of Health Campus
Bethesda, MD
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Many health-related concerns due the interplay of community members’ social media and geographical uses exist. However, rapid deployment of massive amounts of social media data and big data analytic tools for sensing can also become a health intervention aid for local communities. We examine this dynamic interplay through a focus on natural helpers, individuals who others routinely turn to for help and support, and whose efforts can reduce violence risks and promote mental health and wellness in local communities.

During this presentation, we will describe how a community can begin to develop and deploy its own sensing methods for health-related content signals in its social media use through academic-community partnered research.

We will present emerging community-based participatory research on the social media presence of informal helping exchange networks and the relationship to signals of wellness and violence prevention in communities. We draw upon longitudinal Twitter social media network data from a multiple county region surrounding a small and diverse urban area of New York State. These data demonstrate that Twitter users (nodes) with greater centrality in sub-networks of gratefulness (mutual thanking exchanges on Twitter) generate more socially beneficial social media content such as positive sentiment that can enrich social cohesion in communities.

We will explore how to build an academic-community research partnership that can both sense health risks in social media (e.g., alcohol use mentions) while locating and mobilizing helping networks in communities, in order to better identify where quality of life and wellness is robust and to spread community-building initiatives that reinforce social cohesion and reduce observable risks for violence.


Ann Marie White, Ph.D.
Dr. Ann Marie White is Director of the Office of Mental Health Promotion (OMHP) and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She leads department-level change initiatives to deepen Psychiatry’s community engagement via service, education and research. OMHP oversees community, consumer and diversity affairs for Psychiatry faculty and staff. Dr. White directs local and national training activities in collaborative research to infuse scientific inquiries with mental health-related policy and program activities of communities. She promotes mental health supporting behaviors, services utilization and mental illness prevention strategies within community-based settings. She conducts multimedia education to develop civic engagement among youth and young adults. Her research interests focus on system science methods in the application of community engagement in research, mental health promotion, and violence prevention systems in communities. She has an active research program involving social media data and successful transitions into adulthood. Her many years of research experiences in developmental psychology emphasized the role of community settings such as childcare, arts centers and after-school programs in the development of children and adolescents. Upon completion of her doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she was a AAAS/SRCD fellow in the U.S. Senate and the National Institutes of Health.

Ms. Melanie Funchess
Ms. Melanie Funchess is currently employed by the Mental Health Association where she serves as the Director of Community Engagement. Ms. Funchess has served as an advocate for families and youth for many years and has worked extensively in the areas of family engagement and empowerment as well as community building. She presents, trains, and consults locally and nationally in the areas of cultural competence, family engagement, community partnership building, and mental health in communities of color. Her two decades of work experience also include the areas of Education, Developmental Disabilities, and Community Health.

Ms. Funchess is involved in several national and community based coalitions and organizations such as The Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch Council for the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the African American Leadership Development Program, African American Health Coalition, Black Women’s Leadership Forum, Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute, the Mental Health Promotion Task Force, and the Neighborhood Consortium for Youth Justice. She is a founding member of the Coalition for the Beloved Community. The Coalition’s mission is to serve as a “countywide movement to build a culture of peace; grounded in dignity and fed by hope”.

She is a devoted wife and mother of four children (two boys and two girls). Her mission is to use her knowledge of systems and communities to create opportunities for youth and families to be empowered and successful and to break down the walls that separate us and build bridges to unite us as one community where every child is our own, we have front porch neighborhoods, and we use language that respects everyone.

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Natcher Conference Center,

                  Building 45, Balcony C