Online Program

Diabetes support groups on social media: A qualitative evaluation of diabetes specific information exchanges on Facebook

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Esther Piervil, MPH, CHES, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Mark Hart, Ed.D., M.A.L.S., Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
background: In the United States, diabetes is considered to be an epidemic with 7.8 percent of the population, approximately 23.6 million people, diagnosed with diabetes (Barko, 2011). A large amount of health marketing and disease-specific information exchanges now exist on Facebook and other online social networking sites. These digital communities have become regular sources of knowledge, support, and engagement for patients living with chronic diseases, however, the quality and content of the information provided in these digital communities has not been studied at length and is poorly understood.  This observational case study sought to observe and assess the inner workings of a closed diabetes support group on Facebook to assess the potential for implementing social media Interventions for use in data collection, health education and healthy behavior modifications.  Additionally, this study aimed to better understand the role of social media in health information seeking.  This study is unique in its aim to observe the interactions that occur between members in a closed diabetes support group, in contrast to open or public support groups, this study offers special access into an otherwise private online community.

methods: Permission to join and observe the closed group was obtained from the group administrator. Member posts in the group were recorded and analyzed. The analysis used constant comparison method to group and evaluate member posts into appropriate categories and thematic units. Two investigators analyzed posts. Each one independently coded and categorized all posts. Their respective coding structures were then compared. Any differences in interpretation were resolved through discussion until a consensus was obtained.

results: While data collection and analysis are ongoing, preliminary exploration indicate that membership in closed groups consisted of patients with diabetes, family members, and associated friends. Preliminary analysis show that posts generally fell within three categories: social health marketing/promotion, community health support/encouragement, and information/awareness.

conclusion: The results of preliminary analysis indicate that the use of social media for the implementation of health communications targeting healthy behavior modification in a closed group of diabetes patients has great potential for aiding in sustainable healthy behavior modification and improved long-term health outcomes. Results of this study will inform recommendations for future research exploring social media as a resource for health improvement.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the content of communication in Facebook communities dedicated to diabetes. Understand the role of social media in health information seeking. Describe the type of content posted by group members in a closed online community.

Keyword(s): Diabetes, Social Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have served as a graduate research assistant for several federally funded research projects focusing on sustainable community health initiatives in special at-risk, low income, and/or minority communities. My scientific interests have included chronic disease prevention related to diabetes, nutrition, obesity, and tobacco use. I am a new presenter. My research duties have included data collection, data entry, data analysis, and writing for academic publications.
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.