Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis: Health care consumers are increasingly accessing the Internet for health information which has enabled patients to move from being passive consumers of their healthcare to active, empowered partners. However, minorities are less likely to seek health information on the Internet and a recent study has found that the quality of health information on Internet sites targeting African American (AA) audiences is lower than that of general health sites. As the AA community increases its utilization of the Internet for health information, this “quality gap” may serve to worsen, rather than reduce health disparities. Collaborating with trusted online information sources to communicate accurate health information to the AA community may prevent this negative trajectory. Research Questions/Hypothesis: There will be an increase in engagement with health information online amongst AA audiences after providing accurate health information on a website for moms of color (MyBrownBaby.com).
Methods: This study used a mix of content analysis and pre- and post-surveys to gauge changes in behavioral measures such as awareness, attitudes, and intentions. From May 2011 to December 2011, a total of six blog posts from a health professional were added to the website MyBrownBaby.com, a multi-author website featuring blog posts targeting issues important to parents of children of color. Content analysis was conducted, comparing the content available on 55 blog posts prior to and after the posting of health-related content (for a total sample of 110 blog posts by multiple contributing authors). This was supplemented with pre- and post-surveys and content analysis of comments to gauge changes in reader’s attitudes and intentions based on exposure to the health-focused blog posts (results not yet available).
Results: Content analysis demonstrated a shift in the number of mentions of words like child, baby and parents and more health- and medical-related content. Prior to the health-focused blog content being posted, the majority of the blog’s content was lifestyle and family focused. In fact, it had been previously nominated in 2010 for a Best Parenting and Family blog. However, after the integration of health-focused blog content, there has been a tangible shift in the content of the other blog posts and in the attitudes and perceptions of the blog’s readers about health-related content. Moreover, the blog has since been nominated as a Best Health and Wellness blog in 2011. Pre-post survey comparison and readers’ comment content analysis results will also be presented.
Conclusions: Collaborations between health professionals and social media leaders in communities of color to provide accurate and reliable health information have the ability to influence content and dialogue on topics important for reducing health disparities.
Implications for research and/or practice: Health professionals providing care for minority populations should identify online sources that their patients utilize for health information and seek to build partnerships with social media thought leaders such as bloggers to serve as a resource for health content on their website.