Sixteen open access articles describe latest research, practical applications and next steps to promote public health in the digital age
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health Education & Behavior (HE&B), a SOPHE peer-reviewed journal, publishes a special supplement on cutting-edge research and practice in digital health promotion and its impact on individual and population health.
The open access issue Advancing the Science and Translation of Digital Health Information and Communication Technology includes research and commentaries by leading health behavior and communications experts on how cellphones and smart phones are used to access and deliver health information and influence health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
The state-of-the-evidence collection of 11 articles and 3 commentaries illustrates how digital technology and the ever-growing social media world are shaping the possibilities and promise for promoting public health. Wide-ranging and innovative uses of individual electronic health devices, such as Fitbit®, and other mobile communications are described that are influencing youth and adult behaviors. Topics addressed in the 140-page HE&B issue cover studies of Instagram, Pinterest and other social media on use of e-cigarettes, hookah, vaccinations, breast cancer, intimate partner violence, weight loss and mental health.
Some 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone, which are increasingly the primary platform for accessing the internet. “Figuring out how to make our digital technologies health promoting is one of the key public health challenges of the 21st century,” write co-guest editors Dr. Lorien Abroms of The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Dr. Robert Gold of the University of the Maryland School of Public Health, and Dr. John Allegrante of Columbia University.
Citing both positive and negative impacts of social media on health behaviors, the experts outline four major steps for addressing what they call, “The Grand Challenge” of harnessing the power of digital media for public health improvement. Two other provocative commentaries in the HE&B supplement explore the effects of the evolving notion of “constancy” to conceptualize the continuous state of being connected to digital communication, which pervades today’s youth, and the challenges and opportunities facing researchers in the institutional entrepreneurship of digital public health.
This supplement of HE&B contains commentaries and reports of some speakers at the 2018 and 2019 Digital Health Promotion Executive Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. and those selected from more than 40 scientific manuscripts exploring the burgeoning field of digital health research.
One study by Bekalu, McCloud, and Viswanath (2019) revealed that adult routine use of social media is associated with positive health outcomes, but emotional connection to social media use is associated with negative health outcomes. The findings suggest that researchers may need a new way to study the impact of social media interventions, rather than the conventional dose–effect approaches.
Underscoring the need for more research in this developing arena, Dr. William T. Riley, director of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, which funded the issue’s publication, also cautions, “It is essential that the field address access and (the) health and technology literacy challenges, particularly with underserved populations, to ensure that these digital health technologies reduce, not exacerbate, health disparities.”
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About Health Education & Behavior
Health Education & Behavior (HE&B) is a peer-reviewed, bi-monthly journal of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE). The journal provides empirical research, case studies, program evaluations, literature reviews, and discussions of theories of health behavior and health status, and strategies to improve social and behavioral health. HE&B examines the processes of planning, implementing, managing, and assessing health education and social-behavioral interventions.