The SmartBrief headline was too good not to click—"Researchers Use Twitter to Try to Catch Colds". It lead me to computer science researchers at Johns Hopkins who have an active public health research program based on analysis of tweets.
They’ve studied allergies and found that people not only talked about them on twitter but many of them were taking the wrong medications. They’ve also studied headaches and the spread of flu. The SmartBlog post gives information on how they do it.
CS doctoral student Michael Paul comments that using Twitter to do this type of research is much faster than traditional public health information gathering, but less accurate.
So consider it another weapon in the growing arsenal of health-related social media tools!