222551 Social networking websites for health communication: Social support and misinformation surrounding human papillomavirus

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rachel Caskey, MD, MPP , Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Marissa Rousselle, MPH , Community Health Science, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Chicago, IL
G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS , Section of General Internal Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
BACKGROUND: Over half of American youth and young adults search the Internet for health-related information, yet little is known about the quality of information available. Social networking websites have become a popular forum for reciprocal dialogue among youth. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Recently, HPV and the HPV vaccine have become important health topics for youth and young adults. This study aimed to evaluate the quality of HPV-related information available on two popular social networking websites. METHODS: Document analysis was performed on publicly available text from MySpace and Facebook collected December 2007 through July 2008; 124 documents were gathered using a random stratified sampling of member posts including profiles, blogs, and forums using search terms: Human Papillomavirus, HPV, cervical cancer, HPV vaccine, and Gardasil. Grounded theory was used to code data with Atlas.ti. RESULTS: Members used MySpace and Facebook to share personal experiences with HPV infection, cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine as well as to provide advice and support. However, the information shared was often incorrect, lacked a credible source, and perpetuated common misconceptions and stigmas surrounding HPV. Parents also commonly used these sites to share experiences or concerns surrounding HPV vaccination for their daughters. CONCLUSIONS: With increasing rates of HPV infection among adolescents, it is important to provide this population timely and accessible health information. Though the accuracy of information is of concern, social networking sites hold promise to spread adolescent-friendly health promotion messaging.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the quality of HPV related information shared by users on MySpace and Facebook. 2. Describe common misperceptions about HPV, cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine that are shared on these popular websites. 3. Identify ways to use social networking sites for health promotion activities.

Keywords: Internet, Health Communications

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: the data for this presentation was coded and analyzed as part of my Master's Thesis.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.