244092 Social media for health promotion: An analysis of Facebook communities promoting breast cancer awareness

Monday, October 31, 2011

Karley Abramson, MPH , National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD
Brian Keefe, MA , National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD
Wen-ying Sylvia Chou, PhD, MPH , Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, DCCPS, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD
The growing popularity of social media has transformed the way individuals form communities for various health issues. Social networking sites provide a forum for individuals interested in health issues to create dialogue, share experiences, and engage with others. Given its prevalence and visibility in the media, there are numerous online communities devoted to breast cancer. This study examines the use of Facebook as an online community promoting breast cancer awareness. In order to assess user participation and interactions of users with breast cancer organizations, we conducted a descriptive analysis of the most popular Facebook pages concerning breast cancer awareness. Facebook pages with the highest recorded membership (“fans”) were analyzed. A coding scheme was developed in order to evaluate posts between October 1- 31, 2010 (Breast Cancer Awareness month). Criteria for evaluation included function, intent, source, and validity of any evidence-based statements. Preliminary analysis suggests that a primary function of these pages is to facilitate information exchange between users (advice, suggestions, and recommendations from others regarding prevention and treatment) and between users and the organizations (links to relevant news articles and research studies). Interestingly, a smaller portion of user-initiated posts contained specific questions, suggesting these pages offer individuals a platform for expressing their opinions and sharing personal experiences, rather than seeking advice or information. The results of this study will contribute to the growing literature on social media-based online communities, and can be used as the basis for further analysis on the effectiveness of health promotion strategies utilizing social networking sites.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify the common functions of social media among breast cancer organizations and individual users. Evaluate the textual and visual content of Facebook posts on breast cancer pages. Develop a deeper understanding of the interactions between users and organizations that occur through social media.

Keywords: Breast Cancer, Health Promotion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a fellow in the Behavioral Research Program at the National Cancer Instutute who does extensive work in new media and health, as well as in breast cancer messaging strategies.
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.