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Using Media for Health Interventions

Updated on October 5, 2014

Disadvantages of Using Media for Health Interventions

While technology provides a pathway to discover many solutions, many challenges are probable as well. The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) (n.d.) states that marketers can encourage harmful drugs, products, and behaviors. The everyday consumer may not have the knowledge to distinguish between health promotion programming and negative commercialism. Glanz et al. (2008) adds that consumers may purchase a product, but it is not always known if it is used as intended for a positive behavior change.

While more diverse populations can be reached through new media, many Americans still do not utilize these tools. PEW Internet (2013) states that 64% of adults with illness use the Internet; many adults still lack access. Due to this, new media can only be relied on as a supplement to health promotion processes with known limitations.

Health Interventions via New Media


Advantages of Using Media for Health Interventions

Technology today has developed rapidly, providing many new Internet tools and methods for communication. Diverse populations that are generally harder to reach have become accessible through social marketing (Glanz, Rimer, & Viswanath, 2008). Audience segmentation, the ability to customize interventions to unique characteristics of subgroups, is possible using new media (Glanz et al. 2008). The authors add that theory and research is now being integrated into social media interventions, furthering the ability to identify unique needs of populations and identify influences.

Half of all Americans are using social networking (PEW Internet, 2013). Social media and networks are often used as measures of support, complementing intervention methods. PEW Internet (2013) mentions that 1 in 5 individuals with chronic illnesses are online for support. These tools often resemble commercial advertising which is engaged into popular culture. Glanz et al. (2008) adds that new media can be used to target social norms; already posing a presence in popular culture will add to the effectiveness of a campaign using the new media tools.

Knowing Who to Trust in Media

Consumers have access to a plethora of websites for health information. Choosing a trustworthy site, however, can be a challenge. Many features must be researched on a site before a consumer can deem it reliable. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (2012) identifies the following factors for determining the trustworthiness of an Internet site (see table):

Determining Trustworthiness of an Internet Site

Trustworthy Internet Site
Non-Trustworthy Internet Site
Specific professional individuals or businesses are clearly identified as running the site
No identification of who is running the site is present
Mission statement present with clearly stated purpose
Unclear purpose-an unspoken purpose could be to sell a product
Reviewed by experts
Does not identify an editorial process
A privacy policy is present and details how any information shared is to be utilized
Advertisements cannot be distinguished from other information
Sources of information are detailed
A privacy policy is difficult to discover or shares personal information
The date of last review is present and current
Sources of information are missing or vague

Regulation for Commercial Advertising Claims

The Internet has become so widely used, and commercially misused, that regulation would be ideal to streamline inappropriate claims at expertise, education, and treatment. For this to occur, media would need to be clearly defined to prevent limitations to the freedom of speech. It is apparent that some form of intervention is needed as advocacy groups such as the CDD have formed. “CDD’s public education programs are focused on informing consumers, policy makers, and the press about contemporary digital marketing issues, including its impact on public health, children and youth, and financial services” (CDD, n.d., para. 1).

New Media: Connecting Populations for Better Health


The Many Uses of Media with Health

It is true that new media has made an incredible impact on the dissemination of knowledge, ability to impact behaviors, and capacity to provide access to interventions. Computers can be linked with networking software to enhance communication, information exchange, and collaboration (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2009). Virtual social networks provide tools such as blogs, forums, and wikis to promote communication and connection among professionals and patients (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).

Telehealth utilizes new media tools to successfully access individuals that otherwise may not receive education and treatment for chronic diseases. McGonigle and Mastrian (2009) mention “sometimes telehealth interfaces allow patients to interact with a virtual physician (actually a computer program) that will ask questions, provide social support, and tailor education to identify patient needs based on answers to screening questions” (p. 63). Telehealth methods using videoconferencing, the Internet, media streaming, satellite, wireless communications, and the plain old telephone are used to support long-distance clinical health care, client and professional health-related education, and public health administration (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012).

According to Schyve (2007) low health literacy, cultural barriers, and limited English proficiency have been coined the “triple threat” to effective health communication by the Joint Commission (as cited in Singleton & Krause, 2009). New media tools have provided many opportunities to improving communication across cultural barriers. Providers and individuals alike can access information in multiple languages, find support groups specific to target populations, and use literacy level resources to affectively provide education. Patient education is just one area harboring technological tools to bridge the gap between cultures.

What About the Elderly?

It is true that reaching the older population can be particularly challenging if only new media is utilized. For this reason, I suggest continuing to use more traditional methods of intervention. Locally, my community hosts a plethora of health promotion activities at areas where the older community members attend. The YWCA, bingo parlor, retiree’s community center, hospital, and grocery stores all are utilized by health educators. Intervention techniques range from informational booths, healthy food tastings with recipe cards given, health fairs, to traditional lecture methods. Most health educators targeting the older populations are of that population as well.

The issue of healthcare and basic service access for older adults is an important topic. The Center for Civic Partnerships (2010) states that few communities are prepared to meet the needs of older residents, or to engage these residents in civic life. The Illinois Department on Aging (n.d.) mentions “as the population ages, services and programs for older people must evolve as well because longevity means more when quality of life is enhanced.” All communities must include services for the elderly, remembering that they are a unique part of the population.

My community has a facility called the Miller Center, housed on the city park’s property that conducts a variety of services for the seniors. Many classes are held for seniors including health topics, rules of the road, computer basics and advanced learning, ballroom and line dance, and exercises. Volunteerism is promoted by this facility, as they hold can drives, recycling drives, and walk-a-thons. Support groups for raising grandchildren and weight loss are provided also. Activities are planned such as weekend trips, popcorn days, reminiscing gatherings, card clubs, quilting and knitting clubs, billiards and dart clubs, and health screenings. Lunch is provided at the center during the week, food delivery is available for the homebound, and transportation is provided by volunteers; donations are requested but not necessary. The center’s volunteers will transport anyone over 60 to their destination of choice as long as a reservation is made. The Miller Center continues operation through its volunteers, local sponsors, donations, and grant money (Pekin Park District, 2011).


Center for Civic Partnerships. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from

Center for Digital Deocracy. (n.d.). About CDD. Retrieved from

Glanz, K., Rimer, B. K., & Viswanath, K. (Eds.). (2008). Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice. (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McGonigle, D. & Mastrian, K. (2009). Nursing informatics and the foundation of knowledge. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Pekin Park District. (2011). Miller Senior Citizens’ Center. Retrieved from

PEW Internet. (2013). Medicine 2.0: Peer-to-peer healthcare. Retrieved from

Singleton, K., & Krause, E. (2009). Understanding cultural and linguistic barriers to health literacy. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 14(3). doi: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol14No03Man04

Stanhope, M. & Lancaster, J. (2012). Public health nursing population-centered health care in the community. (8th ed.). Maryland Heights, MO: Elsevier.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). New media tools. Retrieved from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Evaluation Internet health information: A tutorial from the National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from


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