Web-based surveillance of public information needs for informing preconception interventions

Angelo D'Ambrosio, Eleonora Agricola, Luisa Russo, Francesco Gesualdo, Elisabetta Pandolfi, Renata Bortolus, Carlo Castellani, Faustina Lalatta, Pierpaolo Mastroiacovo, Alberto Eugenio Tozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes can be minimized through the adoption of healthy lifestyles before pregnancy by women of childbearing age. Initiatives for promotion of preconception health may be difficult to implement. Internet can be used to build tailored health interventions through identification of the public's information needs. To this aim, we developed a semi-automatic web-based system for monitoring Google searches, web pages and activity on social networks, regarding preconception health. Methods: Based on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines and on the actual search behaviors of Italian Internet users, we defined a set of keywords targeting preconception care topics. Using these keywords, we analyzed the usage of Google search engine and identified web pages containing preconception care recommendations. We also monitored how the selected web pages were shared on social networks. We analyzed discrepancies between searched and published information and the sharing pattern of the topics. Results: We identified 1,807 Google search queries which generated a total of 1,995,030 searches during the study period. Less than 10% of the reviewed pages contained preconception care information and in 42.8% information was consistent with ACOG guidelines. Facebook was the most used social network for sharing. Nutrition, Chronic Diseases and Infectious Diseases were the most published and searched topics. Regarding Genetic Risk and Folic Acid, a high search volume was not associated to a high web page production, while Medication pages were more frequently published than searched. Vaccinations elicited high sharing although web page production was low; this effect was quite variable in time. Conclusion: Our study represent a resource to prioritize communication on specific topics on the web, to address misconceptions, and to tailor interventions to specific populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0122551
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 16 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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