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Can trusted social networks impact the spread of health messages?

Leveraging social networks to spread breast cancer risk information

Women living in the United States have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, a serious and often deadly disease. Public understanding of these risks, prevention strategies, and treatment options is limited.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ (NIEHS’) Breast Cancer and the Environment Communication Research Initiative (BCERP) awarded a grant to George Mason University (GMU) and Westat explore the impact of social media in disseminating breast cancer risk information.

  • Working with researchers from GMU, Westat developed an innovative community-based participative research project to evaluate the effectiveness of social networks in reaching and engaging with health risk messages.
  • We identified a group of online influencers to disseminate breast cancer environmental risk information to women and at-risk family members.
  • We conducted research with a culturally diverse group of mothers to refine existing BCERP prevention messages and disseminated those messages through influencer networks.
  • We are evaluating the impact of using trusted social media networks, engaging trusted peer sources to adapt and deliver messages to key audience members, and facilitating peer discussions about relevant cancer risk issues.

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