Use and Acceptance of Social Media among Health Educators

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: As social media use grows in popularity, health educators are challenged to think differently about how to communicate with audiences. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore social media use and factors that determine acceptance of social media use among health educators. Methods: A random sample of Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) (N = 503) completed an online survey consisting of items related to the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). Results: Findings revealed that health educators most commonly used social networking sites (34.8%), podcasts (23.5%), and media sharing sites (18.5%) within their organizations. Social influence (P < 0.0001) and performance expectancy (P < 0.0001) were both positively associated with increased behavioral intentions to use social media for health promotion. Reasons for lack of use included employers monitoring or blocking social media, difficulty of use among older health educators, and the belief that social media would not enhance job performance. Discussion: Many health educators are using social media and intentions to use in practice are associated with social influence and performance expectancy. Translation to Health Education Practice: Social media use holds promise as a supporting methodology to enhance health education practice. Implementation should include attention to guidelines and best practice.

BACKGROUND

Obtaining accurate health information is important in order for the public to make educated decisions regarding their personal health and that of their community. To this end, health educators have successfully used traditional communication channels such as print and broadcast media to reach consumers. However, over the past 25 years the media landscape has changed. Traditional media such as television, radio and the first generation Internet (Web 1.0) has declined in popularity. (1-3) Instead, many consumers are using new media channels such as the second generation Internet (Web 2.0 or social media) to obtain health information and to communicate with other individuals. Web 2.0, or social media, "is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web." (4) Social media include user-generated information, which refers to the production of online content by the general public, and engages audiences much better than traditional media where users are passive viewers of information provided to them. (4)

According to a recent study by the Pew Internet Project, of the 79% of adults in the U.S. using the Internet, 61% look online for health information with 41% using social media to obtain information about health or medical issues? The majority of consumers of online health information access user-generated health information because it provides tailored information or "just-in-time, someone-like-me" information? As a result, health educators are now challenged to think differently about how to communicate with their audiences. Thackeray and Neiger 6 have conceptualized changes in the communication process and have proposed a new Multidirectional Communication Model (MCM). This model suggests that communication has shifted from unidirectional to multidirectional as consumers use more social media to create, seek and share information. Unidirectional refers to the traditional top-down communication process where senders, typically professionals, relay messages through communication channels such as print and broadcast media to a receiver. The MCM includes the traditional communication process but incorporates new forms of online communication that are occurring through social media. Through social media applications, consumers generate their own messages (bottom-up) and share these messages horizontally with others (side-side).

With the shift away from traditional channels towards new social media channels, health educators have the potential to enhance health education practice through the integration of social media. …