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The Power of Social Media in Public Health Messaging: An Interview with Corey Basch and Christie Jaime

In an effort to share the exciting work that CHES® and MCHES® are doing across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have created a series of interviews that shed light on the unique skills that our credential holders bring to students, communities, and families.

Corey Basch, EdD, MPH, CHES®, a Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health at William Paterson University, along with her colleague and Internship Coordinator Christie Jaime, MA, CHES®, have completed ground-breaking work to shed new light on how information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is shared on emerging social media platforms. The information they have jointly collected is then brought full-circle to help train and guide students along the path to becoming our future health education specalists.

NCHEC: How did you come to assess the need for a deeper look at this emerging role of social media platforms in public health messaging?

Corey: Along with the COVID-19 pandemic came an ‘infodemic’ whereby information related to the virus was being shared at alarming rates. Our roles shifted greatly by moving our interns and students to remote instruction and also by aligning our research agenda to describe how social media was covering COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

NCHEC: What was the result of your work to shed light on this ‘infodemic?’

Corey: We have published three papers together to date, one highlighting the emerging social media platform, TikTok, and the other two which examine content on YouTube. These papers have gained media widespread media and attention have filled gaps in the literature. Ours was one of the first papers in an ongoing effort to examine the content of YouTube related to COVID-19. This was followed by a second study offering the first look at successive sampling in YouTube studies. To our knowledge, ours was the first paper to examine COVID-19 content on TikTok. These are all important when considering how we convey messages about COVID-19 and the platforms we have used. Our study has been cited widely in the media. For instance, it was used in an effort in Texas to partner with influencers to promote mask use on TikTok.

NCHEC: What did the results of these studies show?

Corey: Studying social media during the COVID-19 pandemic further reiterates that it is essential for public health professionals to provide information in ways that make it most user-friendly. Our YouTube studies were a striking example of how content and coverage related to prevention changed over time. As the pandemic progressed, the most popular videos pertaining to COVID-19 became those delivered by entertainers.  Similarly, our TikTok study was lacking prevention information. While it is compelling that there was coverage of the topic at all, in a sense it was a lost opportunity. This lies in the fact that the viewership and accessibility is so high and so little focus was on prevention in the sample studied. If accurate, health promotion videos were prevalent on this forum there is greater potential not only for reaching an important audience, but for influencing normative behavior in a positive direction as well.  While the credibility of social media platforms is threatened by misinformation, there is no chance to offset misinformation if credible sources are not using these platforms. Because the purpose of many platforms is for entertainment, credible health professionals are in uncharted territory, but should keep in mind that consumers may have difficulty distinguishing a reliable source from one that is not. Therefore, the creativity and ingenuity of public health educators is essential more so now as it ever has been. 

NCHEC: How do these resources assist your role in the classroom? 

Corey:  We have taken this effort full circle and have begun a series of focus groups with our students to think and learn more about the ways in which social media can be better used to communicate public health messages. Sharing our research findings with students and gathering their feedback about how this can be used within our university program and also within communities has been incredibly fulfilling.

NCHEC: What is your role in shaping future health education specialists?

Christie: As a health educator, one of the major themes we work on is meeting our communities where they are. Students as our target population among our courses make it vital to meet them where they and understand how they themselves receive and absorb current information and how they may use these tools as future health educators.  With the vast amount of both reliable and unreliable sources of information found on the web and on social media, it is imperative to prepare our health educators to combat misinformation by evolving with the times.  Our students are at the forefront of this wave of change happening and our focus groups reveal that they are willing and ready to embrace it. In keeping our curriculum current, we must be ready to evolve with the emerging trends and be sure our public health educators have skills that are relevant not only in the workforce but prepare them to be leaders in prevention education.  

About Corey Basch and Christie Jaime:

Corey H Basch, EdD, MPH, CHES® is Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health at William Paterson University. She holds master’s degrees in nutrition education, communication and education, and cognition and learning as well as a doctorate all from Teachers College, Columbia University. In addition, she holds an MPH with an emphasis in public health practice from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Dr. Basch completed her postdoctoral training in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University with a specialization in cancer-related population science. Her interests and expertise are in health education, behavioral science, and health communication. She has published numerous papers in the peer-reviewed literature related to the coverage of different health topics on social media platforms.

Christie Jaime, MA, CHES® is the Internship Site Coordinator in the Department of Public Health at William Paterson University. She holds a master’s degree in Health Education from Montclair State University and a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education from William Paterson University. Her professional experience includes a wide range of experiences including serving as a  health educator for government municipal health agencies and taking on the role of bilingual trainer and educator for food safety and emergency preparedness agency. In addition, she runs Latinas in Public Health @pbhlatinas, a social media effort designed to engage, empower, and network with Latina/x communities and professionals in Public Health.

Resources and References:

Basch CH, Hillyer GC,  Jaime C. COVID-19 on TikTok: Harnessing an Emerging Social Media Platform to Convey Important Public Health MessagesInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. 2020. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 32776899 

Basch CE, Basch CH, Hillyer GC, Jaime C. The Role of YouTube and the Entertainment Industry in Saving Lives by Educating and Mobilizing the Public to Adopt Behaviors for Community Mitigation of COVID-19: Successive Sampling DesignJournal of Medical Internet Research-Public Health and Surveillance. 2020; 6(2):e19145. PMID: 32297593 

Basch CH, Hillyer GC, Meleo-Erwin Z, Jaime C, Mohlman J, Basch CE.  Preventive Behaviors Conveyed on YouTube to Mitigate Transmission of COVID-19: Cross-Sectional StudyJournal of Medical Internet Research-Public Health and Surveillance. 2020;6(2):e18807. PMID: 32240096 

Posted by Jessica Wessner at 06:00

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