advertisement
04 December 2012

Social media may help fight childhood obesity

Social media may be an effective tool to help children overcome obesity, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement.

0

Social media may be an effective tool to help children overcome obesity, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement. The statement is published online in the association's journal Circulation.

"Online communication and social media are an increasing part of our lives and our overall social network of family, friends and peers," said Jennifer S. Li, MD, MHS, chair of the writing group. "Healthcare providers should embrace its potential as a tool for promoting healthy behavioural change."

The writing group evaluated research on Internet-based interventions to lose weight, increase physical activity and improve eating habits.

"The studies we looked at suggest that more parental involvement and more interaction with counsellors and peers was associated with greater success rates for overweight children and teens who participated in an online intervention," said Li, division chief of paediatric cardiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.

Variables that influenced success were whether the rest of the family was involved in the intervention, the degree of back-and-forth communication and feedback with a counsellor or support group, and the frequency with which kids and adolescents logged on and used the programmes.

How the study was done

People who are overweight or obese tend to share a home or spend their leisure time with others who are overweight or obese, according to research.

"Athletes tend to hang out with athletes, and overweight kids hang out together so they reinforce each other's eating habits or preferences for recreational activities," Li said.

About 95% of 12- to 17-year-old children have Internet access at home and/or in school, so online social network health interventions should be explored as an effective way to prevent or manage excessive weight, Li said.

"Some research shows that even in virtual social networks, people tend to associate with others like themselves," Li said. "So if you develop a network of kids who are overweight, you can have an impact on all of them — in the real world and online — because if one starts making healthy changes, the others will be influenced to do so as well."

However, the downsides to social media include exposure to cyber bullying, privacy issues, sexting and Internet addiction that can cause sleep deprivation, Li said.

Doctors and digital technology

"Doctors need to understand digital technology better so that they can offer guidance to patients and their families on avoiding such issues, and will be aware of any such problems that occur," Li said.

The authors recommend clinicians, policy makers and researchers ensure privacy protection, monitor outcomes and harness the strength of a health promotion social network to devise interventions that initiate and sustain behaviour changes such self-monitoring, goal-setting and problem-solving.

More research is needed to provide data on overweight and obese adolescents to determine whether differences in gender, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic status affect the efficacy and level of engagement with social media and technologically-based weight management interventions.

"Teenagers are texting and using Facebook and other social media as their primary communication with their peers, and we need to find out what factors can be incorporated into social media that will increase the effectiveness of these interventions to initiate and maintain weight loss in kids and adolescents," Li said.

(EurekAlert, December 2012)

Read more: 

Social media detects public mood swings

Healthy eating advice can help cut child obesity

Facebook and friends influence health behaviour

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Choose wisely... »

Healthy diet may extend kidney patients' lives Healthy diet protects teens against later weight gain

Finding the right diet for you

With so many fad diets out there, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. Dietitian Mpho Tshukudu gives advice on how to find and follow the right diet.

Decor danger! »

Sick building syndrome FAQ: Sick building syndrome What is sick building syndrome?

Your wallpaper might be making you sick

Fungus growing on wallpaper might contribute to 'sick building syndrome', causing symptoms similar to flu and allergies.