Online and digital videos can play a key role in cancer education

Online and digital videos have the potential to be useful and innovative tools that improve health outcomes, but limited access to technology and health literacy must be considered when developing such videos, according to researchers at Rutgers’ Cancer Health and Justice Lab. University.

Their systematic review, published in the Journal of Cancer Education, reviewed 11 articles focused on improving education on specific preventive health behaviors through digital videos.

“As more and more people access the Internet as a means of collecting information on a wide variety of different health topics, digital videos provide an opportunity to disseminate and acquire knowledge about general health information.” , wrote the authors.

The review analyzed 11 studies with 3 primary outcomes: information preference (n = 2), knowledge (n = 9), and behavior modification / intentions (n ​​= 3). The authors found that watching videos on YouTube (M = 3.67, SD = 1.38) resulted in better comprehension compared to Twitter (M = 3.11, SD = 1.49), with videos on YouTube (M = 5.93, SD = 0.98)

also leading to stronger attitudes among participants in terms of taking necessary action for cancer risk reduction compared to videos for Facebook (M = 5.65, SD = 0.89).

Knowledge was defined as how participants behaved or remembered information after viewing digital videos on the internet. The assessment was administered via a pre-test and a post-test while viewing an online video. Study participants showed increased knowledge about lung cancer ([pre-test 25.5%; SD = 20.7] vs [post-test 74.8%; SD = 20.2]), knowledge of vaginitis ([pre M = 0.29; SD = 0.44] vs [post M = 0.68; SD = 0.45]) and cervical cancer ([pre M = 0.42; SD = 0.40] vs [M = 0.76; SD = 0.40]).

For the 3 studies that specifically assessed behavior changes and prevention strategies, researchers found that those who underwent a video intervention themselves reported higher actions (2.98 vs. 2.04; P = 0.004) regarding exposure and knowledge of perfluorooctanoic acid. In addition, 75% of participants reported having undergone a skin self-examination versus 9.49% of participants initially, with 78.8% of participants indicating a greater interest in lung cancer screening due to ” a better understanding of the benefits of low dose computed tomography.

“With 87% of adult online users reporting using cell phones to research information as a preferred choice, short digital videos could be used to provide fast, timely and personalized health information on specific topics,” wrote the researchers.

Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of online videos as an educational tool, the researchers criticized the studies they analyzed, noting that only 3 of the studies focused on vulnerable populations, and only 1 study focused on use of mobile interventions.

“From 2013 to 2017, the use of smartphones in households earning less than $ 30,000 increased by 12%,” the authors noted. “The implementation of digital videos in mobile interventions can play a critical role in reaching underprivileged populations. “

They called for future research to focus on using popular social media sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook as a way to reach and further educate more diverse populations, adding that “providing a link between the mobile phone and online digital videos can further increase health literacy and possible long-term health outcomes.


Acuna N, Vento I, Alzate-Duque L, Valera P. Using digital videos to promote cancer prevention and education: a systematic review of the literature from 2013 to 2018. J Cancer Educ. November 9, 2019. doi: 10.1007 / s13187-019-01624-0. [Epub ahead of print]

John C. Dent

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