The Usefulness of Social Media as a Means to Promote Healthful Beverage Choices Among Households Enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
AuthorIsaacs, Jessica Lee
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The purpose of this descriptive study was to determine the potential usefulness of social media for the promotion of healthful beverage choices among households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that included one or more children between the ages of 6 and 12 years-old. This was accomplished through a mail survey of 587 SNAP parents/guardians from a Nevada county that had previously been included in a direct-mail campaign designed to reduce children’s intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. For the purpose of this thesis study, the survey instrument included questions to assess the use of social media, the relative use of specific social media sites, interest in obtaining specific content via social media, and perceived barriers regarding the use of social media. The survey also included questions about the direct-mail intervention that were not included in this thesis study. Several steps were taken to enhance the likelihood that the survey would be completed and returned. These steps included a personalized letter of invitation, a small incentive, inclusion of a pre-addressed postage-paid envelope, and a reminder postcard. Each household was a sent a second survey packet approximately two weeks following the first. The number of surveys returned was 58; representing a 10% response rate. A high proportion of survey respondents were female (89%), white (79%), and not Hispanic (77%). The mean age of the parent/guardian was 37.4 ± 8.7 years and the average number of children in the household was 2.6 ± 1.0. The survey results indicated that most respondents reportedly used social media (75.9%) and among those, 75% had been doing so for more than three years. The social media sites most frequently used (% daily) were Facebook (79.5%), YouTube (31.85) and Google+ (29.5%). Social media sites that were used the least frequently (% daily) included Twitter (2.3%), LinkedIn (0.0%), and Tumblr (0.0%). Over 50% of the survey respondents were interested in learning about ideas for healthy recipes, meals, and snacks, ways to save money when buying food/drinks; and strategies to help kids stay healthy. They were not as interested in learning about ways to identify health food and drink products at the grocery store (22.7%). Regarding barriers to using social media, a high proportion of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they had concerns about privacy protection (70.0%) and the trustworthiness of information (57.5%). A relatively low proportion (7.5%) reported limited access to social media because of their data plan. The results of this study highlight the high usage of social media by parents/guardians enrolled in SNAP as well as their high interest in learning about select nutrition topics. Although the findings have limited generalizability, it does suggest that social media may be a useful means to promote healthful beverage choices among SNAP households. Future research should be conducted among a larger more representative sample in order to generalize to all SNAP households in Nevada.