Preferred Name

Daniel Vieth

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Communication Studies


Corey A. Hickerson

Heather Carmack

Yeonsoo Kim


Previous research has observed the use of social media by health organizations; however, few studies have addressed how health organizations use these media to build relationships with publics. This thesis addresses this gap by applying Kent and Taylor’s (2002) dialogic tenets to Twitter messages regarding the 2015-2016 Zika virus epidemic and the 2016 Rio Olympics. First a pilot study used a quantitative survey to find that individuals were using online media to seek information about Zika, and that the public generally had high threat salience toward the virus. Next, social network analyzer Netlytic was used to collect Tweets that mentioned both “Zika” and “Olympics” between August 5th and August 7th, 2016, during the Olympic Games. Data analysis and a qualitative content analysis found that health organizations were not engaged in the conversations regarding Zika during the Olympics on Twitter, and did not effectively employ the tenets of dialogue. Health organizations can potentially raise their level of dialogue with publics by interacting more with users on the Twitter platform. This thesis extends the literature surrounding dialogic theory, social media use, and health communication practices of public health organizations.



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