Online social media platforms represent a promising opportunity for public health promotion. Research is limited, however, on the effectiveness of social media at improving knowledge and awareness of health topics and motivating healthy behavior change. Therefore, we investigated whether participation in an online social media platform and receipt of brief, tailored messages is effective at increasing knowledge, awareness, and prevention behaviors related to human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. We conducted an online study in which 782 recruited participants were consecutively assigned to nine-person groups on a social media platform. Participants were shown a unique random set of 20 tailored messages per day over five days. Participants completed a baseline and post survey to assess their knowledge, awareness, and prevention behaviors related to HPV and cervical cancer. There were no statistically significant changes in knowledge and prevention behaviors from the baseline to the post survey among study participants. There was a modest, statistically significant change in response to whether participants had ever heard of HPV, increasing from 90 to 94% (p = 0.003). Our findings suggest that most study participants had substantial knowledge, awareness, and engagement in positive behaviors related to cervical cancer prevention at the start of the study. Nevertheless, we found that HPV awareness can be increased through brief participation in an online social media platform and receipt of tailored health messages. Further investigation that explores how social media can be used to improve knowledge and adoption of healthy behaviors related to cervical cancer is warranted.
Keywords: Cervical cancer prevention; Health awareness; Health promotion; Social media.