Researching social media and health communication

This week, I had the privilege of meeting with Erin, my colleague who is taking an  MA in Communications at Royal Roads University, to discuss potential thesis topics. Erin is interested in social media and health communication which is ideal because it ties in so closely to our work.  In my biased view, of course, she could not have selected a better research area.

I was very excited when she invited me to help her brainstorm possible topics. The timing is excellent  because I am preparing to present a session on social media and health literacy at the IHA conference in May so this is doubly valuable for me. I am quite familiar with the two areas of social media tools and health literacy but I need to spend more time looking at the intersection of the two. In other words, there is an assumption that social media are excellent tools for disseminating health information but are they always? Could they present barriers?

As Erin is only starting to explore the concept of social media, our discussion was a broad brainstorm of possible directions.  For some background, I recommended that she look at:

As she gets familiar with the different social media, she will identify areas of interest and narrow her focus to a manageable scope – such as the use of a particular tool (Twitter, Facebook, blogs?); a particular population (patients, physicians?); a particular use (health promotion campaign, patient-to-patient communication?) etc. Possibilities include:

  • An ethnographic study of patient bloggers
  • A critique of the social media strategies/policies of particular agencies
  • Analysis of what is being done with what tools
  • Issues around the use of social media for health: accessibility, disparities, media literacy…

It would be ideal for her to locate a supervisor or an expert in qualitative methodology as this may be an interesting approach appropriate for an ethnographic study or similar research.

One of the fantastic outcomes of working with Erin on this, is that she now appreciates the value of the social media tools that I have been promoting to my colleagues all along. For example, we will use our delicious account to tag the useful links for her research.

Our first meeting was so productive and engaging that three hours flew by. Over the next few months, we will crystalize these initial ideas into concrete research questions. Please use the comment function to share your insights or suggest social media & health communication research questions that we could explore.

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Explore posts in the same categories: health.communication, Social media

2 Comments on “Researching social media and health communication”

  1. Macharia Says:

    Am glad to read about this. I am interested in the same field and I am developing a Phd proposal on that line. KIndly lets keep updating each other.

    • shebamuturi Says:

      Of course Macharia, I would be delighted to connect. Keep me posted about your research proposal – I am most interested.


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