In today’s society, every scroll of our finger provides access and exposure to health information, like never seen before. From apps, Facebook, Youtube to online news stories we have so much information at the tip of our finger tips. Previously our health information access was limited to hard copy books, brochures and appointments with our health care providers.
Just like most things in life, there are upsides and downsides and when it comes to health education it is a case of quality over quantity! Here are a few key points to consider when it comes to online health education.
- Accessibility allows for timely change and management of poor health states, implementing some change is better than delaying
- Provides access to resources to those at a disadvantage who may not otherwise have access
- A useful motivation tool to keep goals on track
- Provides a sense of hope and belonging if common goals are shared
- Delaying a thorough health assessment from your health care provider
- Following advice promoted by online-idols in the hope it will help you as it helped them, despite not feeling any better
- Taking advice at face value and not considering context and credibility
- Being exposed to too much at once and trying to implement it all at once
Special mention must go out to weight loss and healthy eating, as they are big areas where online health information can greatly assist. Often we know what we need to do but lack motivation to do it. Research has shown social support and group support may enhance motivation for weight loss and is critical for weight management. Online health communities such as my Falling In Love with Food program are the ideal platform for social support. Such online programs allow for an accessible means of information sharing, problem-solving and emotional support.
In fact, research has found:
- People feel a greater sense of wellbeing and comfort when they share common goals with others and can share their progress with an interested audience
- People feel inspired and motivated by developing a relationship with others out of a common goal such as improved health or weight loss
- Health communities provide accountability for reaching health-related goals
Overall, online health communities and platforms for information sharing such as apps, blogs and Facebook allow us access without barriers, we can logon, search and scroll anytime of the day without delay. This ‘real-time’ access is undoubtedly a huge contributor to the healthy success of online health programs as continued motivation is only a click away.
Bottom line: make sure health information is coming from a credible source, is considered in the right context and is the right fit for your individual needs. If suffering a health condition, always get a thorough health assessment from a health care provider before turning to online education.
Metzgar, C et al 2014, ‘Facilitators and barriers to weight loss and weight loss maintenance: a qualitative exploration,’ Journal of human Nutrition and Dietetics, Vol. 28, pp. 593-603.
Solberg, L 2014, ‘The Benefits of Online Health Communities,’ AMA Journal of Ethics, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 270-274.