In a scientific statement published last week in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association suggested that Facebook and Twitter hold promise in the fight against childhood obesity.
The study examined eight Internet-based randomized trials that reported weight loss, BMI change, physical activity and dietary intake as outcomes.
Findings were mixed – sample sizes were small, results were varied – about whether or not virtual social networks were meaningful tools for adolescent weight management.
But importantly, the authors wrote that the research should not be abandoned, but rather amplified and targeted to answer more specific questions. Leveraging social network technology in the fight against childhood obesity would be a huge advance.
The Internet as a communication tool cannot be overlooked as a public health facilitator. Especially given how much time kids spend online.
As we wrote a few months ago, a survey undertaken by Common Sense Media, who polled more than 1,000 13-17 year-olds around the country, showed that 90% of 13-17 year olds have used social media, placing it ahead of texting (87%), email (77%) and instant messaging (63%), with one in five saying that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter make them feel more confident.
A few examples of ways social media could prove powerful in the fight against childhood obesity:
• A social network designed like an online Weight Watchers for the younger set.
• Social media integration into active video games like Nintendo Wii Fit and Microsoft Kinect.
• Extension of text-message-based interventions into the realm of social media, useful for self-monitoring and accountability.
Do you have any ideas for how social media could help fight the childhood obesity epidemic?
(Children on computers image from Shutterstock)