Background: A large percentage of Internet users regularly search for health-related information. In recent years, participatory Internet sites such as YouTube have become increasingly popular, in part because individuals are able to both retrieve and post information. This study analyzed how human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination was portrayed in videoclips and viewer-posted comments available on YouTube.
Methods: YouTube (www.youtube.com) was queried on February 8, 2008, using the search terms Gardasil, cervical cancer vaccination, and HPV vaccination to identify and download relevant videoclips. Videoclips were classified as either positively or negatively portraying HPV vaccination, and viewer-posted comments were enumerated. Data analyses were conducted immediately following videoclip retrieval.
Results: A total of 146 unique YouTube videoclips were located, using the three search keywords combined. Three quarters (n=109; 74.7%) of the videoclips portrayed HPV vaccination in a positive manner. One third (n=47; 32.2%) of the videoclips had generated at least one posted comment.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that there is a wide variety of information on YouTube regarding HPV vaccination and cervical cancer. As a result, public health and medical professionals need to be cognizant of the nature of the HPV-related information available, so that they are better equipped to respond to patients who acquire information posted on YouTube and other Internet sources.