“Just, Wash ‘em!”

hand washing

 

By Kathryn Lim

20 October 2017 

“Just, Wash ‘em!” – YouTube and Hand Hygiene Promotion: Entertainment, Education or Entertainment-Education?

Hand hygiene and its contribution to helping prevent the spread of infectious disease is far from what could be considered as an entertaining topic. Despite being recognised as one of the most important strategies for preventing the spread of infection during patient care, compliance with hand hygiene practices by health care workers is variable and needs significant improvement.

In seeking to impact long term behaviour change, poster campaigns have long been the ‘go-to’ as an educational strategy to seek to influence health care professional and consumer behaviour. However, with the changing nature through which we gain and acquire information - are poster campaigns the most contemporary, and effective way to disseminate these messages?

Entertainment-Education and the Role of YouTube

As a communications strategy, education-entertainment has been utilised to inform, influence and shift societal and individual behaviours. With 88% of Americans learning about health issues from television, organisations such as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recognised the potential of this medium to deliver public health messages. This has been demonstrated through the CDC’s involvement in developing resources to support writers and producers to incorporate public health messages through storylines and content. Mass media platforms such as television and radio have been harnessed to deliver public health messages worldwide; addressing topics such as reproductive health, family planning, and HIV prevention.

With the increasing use of live streamed video content, through platforms such as YouTube and Facebook Live, there is an opportunity for the adaptation of entertainment-education interventions to suit a contemporary audience. This provides an ability to maintain relevance; harnessing the unique position social media platforms have in facilitating our ability to create and share messages across networks and communities on a local and global scale instantaneously.

Health related content on YouTube has been associated with the delivery of education aimed at both health consumers and health professionals across a range of topics. In the case of patient education, YouTube has been utilised to address chronic disease management, for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With COPD patient education, a study which evaluated these YouTube videos from a social media content analysis perspective, acknowledged the potential of YouTube in its reach and ability to inform patients. However, caution was raised for the need to exercise discernment relating to the content quality of the videos presented, and to seek to ensure that information was accurate and appropriate for the management of the condition. These concerns relating to the quality of the content of health related YouTube videos has been reiterated in other studies, including the evaluation of YouTube videos providing information on infectious disease outbreaks, such as the H1N1 influenza pandemic, and the recent Ebola epidemic.

YouTube and Hand Hygiene Promotion

Increasingly, individuals and organisations have recognised the potential for the use of YouTube to promote infection control and prevention messages in both unique and creative ways. This has been facilitated through various means, including the hosting of a Film Festival which encouraged organisations to promote infection control and prevention measures in an entertaining manner. Browsing through the currently available videos on YouTube through an ‘entertainment-education’ lens, an array of songs, dances, parodies and skits have been uploaded and shared through YouTube delivering messages about hand hygiene. In certain examples, individuals and organisations have overlayed original lyrics incorporating hand hygiene principles to popular music, allowing for the inclusion of popular music icons such as The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Psy in the promotion of this importance public health message.

It is recognised that a significant amount of time and effort has been invested by those producing this content, from the writing to lyrics to the development of choreography to incorporate the demonstration of the complete hand washing method. However, is this the most effective and positive way to deliver messages on hand hygiene, and furthermore, do these entertaining methods really make us want to “just wash ‘em”?

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