In recent years, social media has become a widely used forum to reach a massive amount of people. Now health experts believe with the help of social media outreach they will be able to encourage condom use among young adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention young people between the ages of 15 and 24 acquire nearly half of all new sexually transmitted disease (STDs). Those between the ages of 20 and 24 are at a higher risk due to behavioral, biological and cultural reasons. Health experts hope they can increase the number of youths participating in safe sex by using social media promotion.
"The use of social media to influence sexual risk behavior in the short term is novel. It is a first step in considering how to reach the overwhelming numbers of youth online, and how to maximize approaches to technology-based interventions," said lead investigator Sheana S. Bull, PhD, MPH, of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned young adults to either an intervention group or a control group. The intervention group signed up to "Like" and receive information from Just/Us, a Facebook community dedicated to promoting sexual health.
Thus far, results have demonstrated success in recruiting African-American youth and youths living in cities and communities with a high STD/HIV rate through Facebook. Though there is no supporting evidence that suggests that youths seek and engage with organizations on Facebook, tactics such as Just/Us is one way to get the message across a large population of teens and young adults.
Dr. Bull warns that the studied relied on self-reporting and condom use may have been overstated. She also concludes that the study emphasize efforts to intensify the need to attack and engage higher-risk youth for prevention efforts using social media, such as Facebook.
"Future work should explore approaches to keep audiences engaged in social media content related to sexual health," she said."
The study will be published in the November edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.