Study published on using social media platforms to encourage health behaviours

A study has been conducted to identify content created by health professionals related to using social media platforms to encourage health behaviours such as receipt of the HPV vaccine in the USA.

The study highlights that approximately half of adolescents in the USA do not complete the recommended HPV vaccine series, as such, the purpose of the study was to analyse content created by professionals related to HPV on TikTok.

The study, titled “Professionally created content related to HPV vaccination on TikTok”,  was published by authors Corey H. Nasch, Grace C. Hillyer and Erin T. Jacques.

It notes that prior research has indicated that “consumer-driven content on TikTok can complicate medical recommendations for vaccines, as content can contain misinformation and disinformation… however, increasingly, health professionals are creating TikTok health-related videos that use humour, trendy songs, and self-criticism to connect with young audiences.”

The descriptive, cross-sectional study took place in January this year and used TikTok’s discover search feature to identify videos listed under the hashtag #HPVvaccine. The first 100 videos listed under this hashtag by people who claimed to be health professionals were selected for inclusion.

The videos were coded for format and content to compare the types of information shared, such as whether they mentioned HPV-related cancer, HPV prevention, and HPV infection risk factors. Comments were also coded to demonstrate audience responses to the videos; whether they indicated positive, negative or neutral sentiments about the vaccine, and related questions or concerns such as cost/insurance and fertility concerns.

Researchers then performed a descriptive analysis of the characteristics of the selected videos. Results showed that 54 percent of the health professional videos used music to connect with the audience and 15 percent used humour. All videos in the sample were pro-vaccination. 75 percent mentioned HPV-related cancer, with 40 percent discussing the vaccination specifically as a cancer preventative measure. 36 percent discussed how HPV is transmitted, 27 percent mentioned HPV screening and testing, 10 percent highlighted the fact that the vaccine is considered safe and 4 percent discussed risk factors associated with HPV infection.

When it came to comments, 52 percent were neutral in tone, with 62 percent of comments focusing on general questions about the vaccine. 58 percent mentioned alternative medicine, and 54 percent of comments focused on HPV-related cancer.

The researchers concluded: “cancer and prevention messaging on HPV was more prevalent among pro-vaccine videos. Our findings are in concert with these in that all videos included in our sample were created by professionals and were pro-vaccine. We found that the frequency with which HPV-related cancer was mentioned was higher, while specifically mentioning prevention was lower in our sample of TikTok videos.”

They added that the content of the comments in the study indicates that HPV-related cancer, the age at which to be vaccinated, general information around vaccination and related costs are important topics for which information is being sought.

To read the study in full, click here.