SC&I’s Assistant Professor of Communication J. Sophia Fu was awarded the Top Early Career Scholar Paper Award at the D.C. Health Communication Conference (DCHC) for her paper “Harnessing online social networks to understand health behaviors and outcomes: A systematic review of literature from 2000 to 2016.” Her research examines the ways social network sites and online health communities can result in behavior change and improve health outcomes.
Hosted by George Mason University’s Communication Department and The Center for Health and Risk Communication, the conference was held from April 25-27, 2019. This year’s theme was “International and Global Health Communication Research.”
Explaining the scope of her research and her motivation to undertake this research, Fu said, “Social network sites and online health communities have opened up new possibilities for prompting health behavior change and improving health outcomes. Given the opportunities brought about by new technologies, understanding the impact of online social networks is of great significance to the design of effective health interventions. In this research, we employed a social network perspective, searched in eight public health and social science databases, and conducted a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed academic empirical papers published between 2000 and 2016 to extend our knowledge of how online social networks are related to health behaviors and outcomes.”
Communication Department Chair and Professor Craig Scott said, “As our newest faculty hire in Communication, part of what is so impressive about Dr. Fu is her ability to work across multiple subareas of the field. Although she is primarily trained in areas such as organizational communication and communication technology, she is also doing outstanding research tied to health communication. It is wonderful to see her work recognized in that community.”
Fu’s paper will impact many different populations in significant ways. “First, this research will benefit the academic research community to advance research in the intersection of health communication and social technologies,” Fu said. “Second, this research will benefit public health practitioners, as well as public and nonprofit agencies, to help them devise effective health interventions and strategically leverage online social networks to create health interventions and generate positive health outcomes, such as psychological well-being. This also has the potential to influence public health policies on the regulation of social media and online health communities. Finally, this research will help patients and individuals who are at risk of various health challenges, as online health networks could help individuals seek informational, emotional, and instrumental social support. Online social networks can be leveraged for prevention, detection, and intervention efforts.”
Fu’s research interests center around organizations, social networks, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to address some of the greatest social challenges of our era, including climate change, global health issues, educational inequality, and social exclusion.
In 2018, Fu received the Top Poster Award from the Health Communication Division of the International Communication Association. In 2017, she was awarded the Top Paper Award from the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association, and the Carlo Masini Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management in 2016. In 2017 she also received the prestigious Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, in Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences, from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Fu received a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Media, Technology and Society, and she also holds an M.A. from Northwestern in Statistics. She earned a B.A. in International Journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University in China.