University institutes find potential in social media health tools

Source: USC

In a groundbreaking survey studying the impact of online applications and social community support on health habits, the University of Southern California's Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) and the USC Center for Body Computing (CBC) today released results from a study examining their impact on smoking cessation.  

Researchers surveyed 266 users of LIVESTRONG.COM's MyQuit Coach™, a mobile application that enables people to work toward their goal to quit smoking with the help of a smart cigarette tracking system and a supportive online community.  The app was developed with the help of the USC Center for Body Computing, which researches and develops wireless health solutions.  Majority of the survey respondents were between 31-50 years old and were attempting to quit a significant smoking habit.  The program was used alone by some, and also in conjunction with other methods, such as acupuncture, prescription medication, and nicotine replacement therapy.  

The study showed great promise for the positive impact social online community support can have in creating healthy habits.   Over twice as many users who succeeded at quitting found benefits from being a part of a focused social network, as well as having access to interaction with that community at any time they needed it. More than 80% of successful users "received continuous positive feedback" and thought it "was always there when they needed it."

The MyQuit Coach survey found that the ability to immediately and continually track cigarette consumption along with encouragement and social support can lead to smoking cessation. 

"People who were successful saw value in what they perceived as a more focused social networking group whose common goal was to quit smoking," said Elizabeth Fife, CTM's Associate Director of Research who conducted the study. The study showed people were successful with the application because of community support from similarly motivated users sharing the same experience.

"The results of this survey indicate that there may be an online community effect, that can enhance people's ability to quit smoking," said Lucy Hood, Executive Director of CTM, who studies the business implications of new technologies in partnership with the CBC.  "Other online social networking programs may prove to be an inexpensive yet effective addition to smoking cessation treatment options, and we plan further study."

"After many years of treating patients, I realize that it takes a lot more than an a stern warning to change negative behaviors," said Dr. Leslie Saxon, the executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing and the chief of cardiovascular medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine.  "Given the growing importance and time spent on social networks, we think the results show promise for health information on networks. Successfully ending an addiction to smoking is a complex interplay between personal and social influences. We strove to allow the smoker to use their own understanding, as well as that of a social network to identify and modify these factors. We found that social networks can be more effective than a yearly chest X ray and an admonishment to quit smoking from a doctor." 

ABOUT USC'S CENTER FOR BODY COMPUTING 

Headquartered at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, the Center for Body Computing works with the School of Cinematic Arts, the Marshall School of Business, the Viterbi School of Engineering and other USC schools to think about, study, and create the future of healthcare. The Center for Body Computing hosts the annual Body Computing Conference, and it also creates products, performs research, and studies wireless health. The Center for Body Computing, an independent center, also fosters low-cost health solutions that can lead to better health outcomes across the globe, especially in the developing world. 

ABOUT USC'S INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT (CTM)

The Institute for Communication Technology Management is a leading strategy organization in the communications sector, with a unique combination of business and consumer insights. CTM is based at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, at the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. CTM offers business leaders cutting edge multinational research, executive strategy conferences and senior leadership education. CTM's research surveys are used by global tech, communications and media companies to guide their corporate strategies.

 

SOURCE University of Southern California