AN ASSESSMENT OF STUDENTS’ ACCEPTANCE AND APPLICATION OF HEALTH-CARE INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA

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ABSTRACT
Young adults are increasingly using social media for seeking health-care information. The nature of social media makes veracity of posted health information questionable. It is against this backdrop that this study assesses the level of acceptance and application of health information on social media, with a focus on students of some randomly selected Nigerian universities in the South-East. The mixed method of research design consisting of survey and focus group discussion was used. Findings indicate that students are enthusiastic and active users of social media. The findings show that students seek and apply health information they sourced from social media. Data from the study revealed that majority of students rarely confirm health information they get on social media with offline medical practitioners, both before and after application. However, despite the availability and ease of sourcing health information on social media, students still prefer offline medical practitioners to social media as source of health information. According to the findings of this study, majority of students perceive health information from offline health practitioners to be more reliable than that sought on social media. The study recommends that rather than discouraging students from searching and learning about their health conditions on social media, students should proactively adapt caution and the necessity of verifying information they source on social media with appropriate offline health information providers, especially before application.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title page
Table of contents
List of tables
List of figures
Abstract

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1       Background Of The Study
1.2       Statement Of The Problem
1.3       Objectives Of The Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Significance Of The Study
1.6       Scope Of The Study
1.7       Operational Definition Of key Terms
            References

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1       Focus of Review
2.1.1    Conceptualization and Nature of Social Media
2.1.2    Youths’ Acceptance and Use of Social Media
2.1.3    Social Media and Health Communication
2.1.4    Seeking Health Information Online - Youths in Focus
2.1.5    Digital Literacy and Online Health Information– Ehealth Literacy
2.1.6    Evaluation of Ehealth Literacy among Young Adults
2.1.7    Problems of Seeking Health Information on Online: Matters Arising
2.1.8    Summary and Gaps in Reviewed Literature
2.2       Theoretical Framework
2.2.1    Technology acceptance model (TAM)
2.2.2    Media system dependency model (MSDM)
            References

CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Population of the Study
3.3       Sample Size
3.4       Sampling Techniques
3.5       Measuring Instrument
3.6       Validity and Reliability of Research Instrument
3.7       Method of Data Analysis
            References

CHAPTER FOUR: DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
4.1       Data Presentation and Analysis
4.2       Discussions of Findings
            References

CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1       Summary of Findings
5.2       Conclusion
5.3       Recommendations
            Bibliography
            Appendices

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION


1.1         Background of the Study
The phenomenon of human communication continues to develop as man seeks for ways to make life easy. According to Robinson, Patrick and Gustafson (1998:280), the first generation of internet search engines was referred to as Web 1.0, a one-way flow of information, or the read only web. Information was searched and accessed unilaterally as interaction by users was limited. Nauert (2013:23), indicated that in the wake of the Web 2.0 phenomenon, communication strategies are also changing to match the increasingly influential and rapidly evolving social media revolution.

Eysenbach, Powell, Englesakis, Rizo and Stern (2004:1166) noted that over the past few years, there has been a dramatic transformation in the way people communicate with one another through electronic media, with the continued development of Web 2.0 technologies. Drentea and Moren-Cross (2005) added thus;

The Web 2.0 marks a shift from a one-way conversation to a multi-way conversation, in which users participate as both creators and consumers of web contents. Social media structures include size, reciprocity, complexity, density, homogeneity, reachability and geographic dispersion (p.923).


Rice and Katz (2002:14) asserted that among the variety of places one could find health information is the internet, with as many as four-fifths of users looking for such content online. For instance, a study by Pew Research Centre Internet & American Life Project in 2011 shows that 80% of internet users have looked online for information about health topics such as disease and treatment.

Barker (2008:20) indicated that the social media appears to offer many benefits not available through other means as users see digital media as a means to overcome health disparities. In support of the latter, Hardey (1999:820) noted that the sheer volume and variety of information available online is likely much more than most people have available offline.

Berkman and Glass (2000:5) in their study show the linkages among social networks, social support and health. Through this study, Berkman and Glass indicated how social networks provide opportunities for psychosocial mechanisms, such as social support and social influence, which in turn affect health through health behavioural, psychological, and physiologic pathways.

Access to online information has created an opportunity for non-clinicians and patients to take a more active role in healthcare. To buttress the above assertion, Phelan and colleagues (2004) stated;

Being embedded in a social context where neighbours, friends, family members, and co-workers can generally look forward to a long and healthy life surely contributes to an individual’s motivation to engage in health-enhancing behaviours (p. 267).

According to Cohen and Syme (1985:23), the adoption of social media by health organizations reflects a widespread sense that these tools are increasingly necessary to reach demographics who are abandoning traditional broadcast technologies (e.g., telephones, television) such as teens or a significant portion of the public who are rapidly transforming the manner in which they interact with experts.

Pereira and Bruera (1998:62) noted that social media platforms form an important continuum in terms of how people privately seek health-related information, as well as publicly share such information, respectively. A study by Berger, Wagner and Baker (2005: 1821) shows that the sense of anonymity and privacy that the internet offers leads some internet users to seek sensitive and potentially stigmatizing information through this means.

Ellery and Perlmutter (2001:41) enumerated that a majority of health educators are fast adopting social media. They further emphasised that social media provides an outlet for the publication of health information to consumers, while allowing consumers to respond and contribute to advice that was traditionally only issued by providers.

However, Flanagin and Metzger (2008:14), pointed out that traditional gatekeepers, such as editorial boards, whose task it is to guarantee certain levels of quality in the analogue environment are less important in the online world. This implies that there are a limited number of standards for quality control and evaluation of contents on social media (Dobransky & Hargittai, 2012, p. 335).

Adelhard and Obst (1999:75) observed that dangers associated with using the social media as a resource for health information, most prominently dwell in the areas of accuracy and reliability. Giles (2007:432) suggested that using such health information from the internet for decision-making purposes without expert advice could potentially have a negative impact on users’ health.

Statistics shows that the use of social media is a prevalent phenomenon among youths. A study by Fenichel (2009:3) suggests that between 55% and 82% of teenagers and young adults.....


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