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The use and effect of social media in health communication about common head lice

Uittenhout, H. (2012) The use and effect of social media in health communication about common head lice.

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Abstract:Objective: Technological developments in the field of internet impacts the large group of people that uses this media source to obtain health information. Social media is such a new development and drastically changes websites from a static source to a many-to-many communication channel. To better understand these changes and use them in effective health promotion and health communication the potential of popular social media websites is investigated. With the knowledge from this research a decision can be made if these channels can be used to effectively improve public health. A case study involving the communication about head lice prevention used to better understand the use and effect of social media in health communication. Methods: In the case study social media pages were created in collaboration with municipal health services. Channels were promoted to parents using school newsletters. The popularity and effectiveness could then be measured using quantitative and qualitative methods. To observe health behavior a questionnaire was created. The likeliness of preventive measures concerning head lice is used to illustrate health behavior. Combined with different sociodemographics and media use, indicators for this behavior could be quantified and pointed out. To illustrate media choice and preference under parents an adaptive choice based conjoint was used. In addition qualitative interviews with professionals and parents are performed to substantiate the quantitative findings. Results: The popularity from the social media case study was very low. Passively spreading head lice information to parents’ trough social media was unsuccessful. Parents indicated that they did not see social media as a source for health information. In general parents are likely to perform preventive measures concerning head lice and current information about head lice was perceived as sufficient. Only high income and higher education were indicators that reduced the odds significantly for preventive head lice measures. For general information about head lice parents indicated that they consulted schools, pharmacies and the internet. For information about head lice treatments pharmacies were used more often. The most important factor according to the ACBC for media choice was where the information could be obtained. Ideally parents received the information trough school or internet when it would be relevant in a short and practical form. Conclusion: Social media was ineffective in spreading information to parents about head lice with the aim to change preventive behavior. Parents clearly preferred the current method of receiving information from schools. The predicted choice probability that was produced using the results from the ACBC showed that alternative solutions existed. Incorporating information from the guidelines into Wikipedia and an internet “head lice radar” application showed promise. Alternatively for head lice information municipal health services could adapt different social media strategies but “single topic health channels” on social media should be avoided.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Health Sciences MSc (66851)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/62495
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