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Introduction Keeping Canadians safe requires a robust public health (PH) system. This is especially true when there is a PH emergency, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, is an important information channel because most people use the internet for their health information. The PH sector can use social media during emergency events for (1) PH messaging, (2) monitoring misinformation, and (3) responding to questions and concerns raised by the public. In this study, we ask: what is the Canadian PH risk communication response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of social media? Methods and analysis We will conduct a case study using content and sentiment analysis to examine how provinces and provincial PH leaders, and the Public Health Agency of Canada and national public heath leaders, engage with the public using social media during the first wave of the pandemic (1 January-3 September 2020). We will focus specifically on Twitter and Facebook. We will compare findings to a gold standard during the emergency with respect to message content. Ethics and dissemination Western University's research ethics boards confirmed that this study does not require research ethics board review as we are using social media data in the public domain. Using our study findings, we will work with PH stakeholders to collaboratively develop Canadian social media emergency response guideline recommendations for PH and other health system organisations. Findings will also be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Citation of this paper:

Kothari A, Foisey L, Donelle L, et al How do Canadian public health agencies respond to the COVID-19 emergency using social media: a protocol for a case study using content and sentiment analysis BMJ Open 2021;11:e041818. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041818

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