Abstract

On March 12, 2010, Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services announced that the province would be the first jurisdiction in North America to cover the costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. Judging by the increase in Internet discussion of the topic, Quebec's decision has heightened the public discourse on allocation of taxpayer dollars. At this time, two million Quebecers are without a regular doctor.

This study measured online public opinion before and after the Minister's announcement, using "sentiment analysis." This involves mining open-access content on blogs, online commentary and message boards. No individual identifiers were captured.

Software collected online opinion on IVF in Quebec and, within that topic, on funding IVF, for six months before the Minister's announcement and six months after. Pre-announcement, 676 entries on IVF in Quebec were captured; 144 of these related to funding. Post-announcement, 940 entries for IVF were captured; 215 related to funding. Positive opinion outnumbered negative in both periods, but attitudes remain similarly divided: 29% of opinion was positive both pre- and post-announcement; 13% and 11% were negative, pre- and post-, respectively.

The sentiment analytics approach described here is useful as a rapid assessment for policy makers, complementing literature reviews and policy options analysis.