Online Program

"Is It true that....?": Addressing sexual and reproductive health literacy needs in an online social network

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 2:45 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Laura Merrell, MPH, CPH, Department of Community and Family Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Rudith Laine, MPH, CPH, Department of Community and Family Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Cheryl A. Vamos, PhD, MPH, Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Background: Health information seeking behavior (HISB) is important in guiding decision-making in health, illness and sick-role behaviors. Social network forums are a popular source for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information because of their convenience, anonymity, decision-making support, and diversity of information. However, little research has looked at online HISB related to SRH. This study examines content, style and health literacy implications of online posts with regard to SRH.

Methods: A content analysis was conducted on posts in a popular social network microblogging platform moderated by health professionals over a four month period in 2014. Posts were analyzed for content trends and health literacy elements, including communication principles.

Results: Of question and response pairs (n=90), two-thirds were made by anonymous users and one-third included personal health information (e.g., “I am 16 weeks pregnant…;” “I experience pain when I have sex”). Most questions sought a second opinion from a healthcare provider (21%) or reassurance that their SRH experiences were normal (20%).  Responses exhibited several positive health communication and plain language components, including summarization (14%), bulleting/numbering (38%), and bold, underlined, or italicized fonts for emphasis (63%).  However, many posters conveyed a sense of embarrassment seeking information elsewhere, including not wanting to appear ignorant to healthcare providers.

Conclusion: Accurate SRH information from health professionals can be provided in a user-friendly and understandable manner via an online social network. These findings can inform future analyses on online SRH information-seeking practices and the development of patient-centered messages, with the ultimate goal of improving SRH literacy.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Assess how information needs are met utilizing health literacy principles in one online social network

Keyword(s): Health Literacy, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. I have worked as a researcher on a number of grant funded research studies, including those related to health literacy and health communication. Among my scientific interests are health information seeking behaviors and health literacy related to sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child, and women's health.
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.