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Health and Medicine for Seniors

YouTube May Be Social Media Tool to Link More Seniors to Health Information

With video social media, information about skin cancer and sun protection goes straight from researchers to the public

How skin cancer develops – Mayo Clinic

This YouTube presentation takes full advantage of art, photography and video to graphically explain about skin cancer.

Skin Cancer: What Causes it and Who is at Risk? - Mayo Clinic

This does not use video or photography to tell the story but a Mayo Clinic dermatologist clearly explains the threat of skin cancer in an easily understood conversation

July 9, 2014 – Senior citizens have not been pioneers in using social media, but they are eager consumers of health information. Research for the University of Colorado Cancer Center suggests that YouTube has the potential to be the ultimate provider of health information seniors want – at least as it applies to skin cancer.

YouTube is for more than watching World Cup highlights, Brian Williams refreshing old school rap classics, and videos of skateboarders landing in unfortunate positions on railings.

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the Dermatology Online Journal shows that YouTube also allows researchers, journals, and health advocates to connect directly with the public on topics of skin cancer and prevention.

“No matter what field you’re in, social media is the future of how we communicate around the world,” says Chante Karimkhani, MD candidate in the lab of Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH investigator at the CU Cancer Center and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Dellavalle also manages the Facebook page and other social media for the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The study queried YouTube for search terms related to dermatology including “sun protection, skin cancer, skin cancer awareness, and skin conditions.” Results included 100 videos with a cumulative 47 million views. The videos were shared a total of 101,173 times and drove 6,325 subscriptions to distinct YouTube user pages.

 

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According to the researchers, whose previous studies include similar examinations of Twitter and Facebook (and forthcoming studies of Instagram and Tumblr), these results point to a new opportunity to disseminate research directly to the public.

“It used to be that researchers and journals depended on independent media to interpret their findings for the public. It could be a little like a game of telephone. Now through social media, journals can have their own presence – their own mouthpiece directly to the public that may include patients or health care providers or even other researchers,” Karimkhani says.

In the field of dermatology, specifically, the researchers see great promise in speaking directly to consumers of social media. They point out that the tanning business is certainly on social media, “recommending tanning strategies and products to use for tanning,” says Karimkhani. “We need to be there as well.”

For example, of the videos returned with the search query “skin cancer”, 25 percent were educational and another 25 percent were what the researchers considered “complementary and alternative medicine videos.” Overall, only 35 percent of videos across all dermatology search terms we uploaded by or featured a biomedical professional.

The researchers hope that as more academic institutions, researchers and journals recognize the promise and accept the challenge of social media, information directly from these credible and well-meaning sources may be able to change the popular conversation.

For skin cancer and many other diseases, patients and the at-risk public are online. So too are businesses and advertisers. Karimkhani, Dellavalle and collaborators hope that authoritative sources including researchers and journals will learn to add their voices as well.

>> Original report written by Garth Sundem in In the Lab, Latest News. In addition to writing for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Sundem is the author of the books The Geeks' Guide to World Domination, Brain Candy, and Geek Logik.

 

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