Investigating the impact of social media on awareness and prevention of diabetic retinopathy in young adults: a case study at EYSPOT in Chestnut Hill Massachusetts
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BACKGROUND: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of vision loss in the world. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes those with diabetes into three age groups, including a young adult group, ages 18-44. In the Boston metropolitan area, around 4.6% of this age population has diabetes. EYESPOT is a private eye care practice in Boston. Of the few diabetic patients seen, most do not fall within the young adult age range. Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of social media to promote awareness of healthy behaviors. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study is to utilize social media in order to raise awareness of DR in the young adult population and encourage preventative behavior. METHODS: A Facebook page for EYESPOT Diabetes was created to engage the young adult patient population and was monitored over a four-month period. Four categories of Facebook posts, differentiated by type, were disseminated. Posts were targeted to different audiences during each month, creating three unique time blocks. Posts were analyzed for their Engagement (total number of people who interacted with the post via a “like”, click, or “share”) and their Reach (total number of people that saw the post). Preliminary Engagement measures of each post were standardized to account for measures of Reach, creating an additional measure of standardized engagement scores (SES). A 4x3 ANOVA was conducted using SPSS to evaluate the effects of post type and time block on SES. RESULTS: Main effects were found for both post type and time block. Posts of the “Advertising” type had a significantly lower SES than all other posts (p<.01). Posts in the “Promotional College Student” time block had a significantly higher SES (p<.01) than posts in other blocks. There was a significant type-by-block interaction for SES (p<.01). Post hoc analysis revealed that posts of the “Technological” type had higher SES when posted in the block aimed at College Students (p<.01). Of note, 96% of the Facebook users who saw our posts (n = 4050) fell in the young adult bracket. After the conclusion of the study, two new patients in the young adult range contacted EYESPOT with intent to make future appointments, citing our Facebook page as reference. CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that Facebook may be an effective tool to encourage the young adult population to be aware of and engage in beneficial health behaviors. Future studies will investigate how to utilize social media further to increase physical appointments and patient-clinician interactions.