Videos on social media can boost cancer awareness

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Online health videos can offer another way for people to become educated about cancer, researchers report.

A new review in the Journal of Cancer Education, analyzed existing research to see how people learned about cancer and how watching educational videos prompted a change in behavior.

“This review demonstrates the benefit of using digital videos for cancer health education ranging from cancer prevention to treatment,” says lead author Nicholas Acuna, a recent graduate student at Rutgers University School of Public Health.

Examining literature from three large health databases from PubMed, MEDLINE, and PsychINFO, the researchers focused on people’s cancer knowledge, their preferred method of receiving information, and any changes made in behavior.

The findings show that people who watched online digital videos had more awareness and understanding of cancer risk factors and screening procedures.

The findings also show that participants preferred YouTube over Twitter and Facebook. Further, researchers noted an increase in behavioral changes such as self-skin inspections and the likelihood of people seeking lung cancer screening increased after watching online digital videos.

The review notes that while many studies examining digital video use for cancer health education demonstrated an increase in a person’s cancer knowledge, potential behavioral changes, and preference to digital videos, there was a lack of studies that focused on diverse populations, despite the fact that participants in several of the studies identified mostly as non-Hispanic/Caucasian.

“By increasing access to cancer information using online platforms, we have the opportunity to reduce barriers related to health literacy and improve health in underserved populations,” says senior author Pamela Valera, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and an associate member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

According to Valera, 87% of adults who access health information online use their cell phones, where social media use is also the highest.

“While digital health videos addressing cancer can lead to improved health and well-being, the direction we should begin to go is to reach the needs of disadvantaged populations,” Valera says.

“Videos are an inexpensive way to deliver a clear, consistent message, and they allow viewers to proceed or rewatch at their own pace, which make them especially effective for people with low health literacy.”

Valera also stresses the importance of people researching the source of video education to make sure the information comes from reliable sources.

The National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey funded the work.

Source: Rutgers University