What are the aims of the UCLA Social Network Health Study?
The UCLA Social Network Health Study, commonly called the HOPE Study, is designed to promote health through social media. Specifically, we are applying a peer-to-peer model on Facebook to improve health outcomes among high-risk populations, with a special focus on Los Angeles–based Latino and African-American men who are sexually active with other men.
What attracted you to working for UCLA on these studies?
Social media is very relevant in today’s world. (I believe in this even more after recently receiving a surprise Facebook friend request from my extremely tech-shy mother!) There is a huge opportunity to harness social media to quickly diffuse health messages and address current and future public health problems. What resonates with me the most is that this study is designed to empower each participant and equip them with the necessary tools that are needed to not only make a positive impact in their own lives, but also to positively influence people who are merely connected to them through social media. A successful domino effect in such instances can chip away at many health problems. I wanted to be a part of this revolutionary initiative that approaches public health issues from an interesting and sustainable angle.
What are the biggest challenges in recruiting participants for these studies today?
There are a few challenges to keep in mind. When recruiting online, it is difficult to establish immediate credibility. People are naturally wary of who might be at the other end of the conversation. Also, given the sensitive nature of the health study, which can include topics such as sexuality and stigma, not everyone is open to discussing (or admitting) their preferences to strangers. We understand that establishing trust takes time, and quite often people do not have the patience to take in the details about the entire study. The challenge is to make a quick pitch that is engaging, trustworthy, and impactful. Additionally, a UCLA logo and branding goes a long way in moving the conversation forward with potential participants.
What would you like a potential participant who is on the fence about contacting you to know?
To jump off the fence and join the study! But only if you are a cool Latino or African-American man who is interested in other cool men. We are looking for very specific individuals who want to be a part of an exclusive Facebook group and engage in health-related discussions. The study can be conducted whenever time is available and participants will receive $170 for filling out simple surveys before and after the study. If you still have reservations, call (310-794-2907) and we will be happy to answer any concerns! I hope people will join us on this exciting journey to better health.
To find out more about the UCLA Social Network Health study, please click here.