Acceptability and potential impact of delivering sexual health promotion information through social media and dating apps to MSM in England: A qualitative study

Joanna M. Kesten*, Kaiseree Dias, Fiona Burns, Paul Crook, Alison Howarth, Catherine H. Mercer, Alison Rodger, Ian Simms, Isabel Oliver, Matthew Hickman, Gwenda Hughes, Peter Weatherburn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) in England is a pressing public health concern. Interventions targeting MSM, including information provision that effectively promotes sexual health, are needed. To support such intervention development, it is necessary to understand acceptable ways of delivering sexual health information. We explored the acceptability and potential uses and impacts of delivering sexual health information to MSM through social media and geosocial networking apps or dating apps. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or by telephone with 25 MSM resident in England recruited via dating apps and social media advertisements. Interviews explored sexual health information sources, perceptions and uses. Attitudes towards sexual health promotion through social media and dating apps were then discussed. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Sexual health information delivery through social media and dating apps was considered acceptable. Receiving information when browsing social media was viewed positively by most, as people have time to absorb information. In contrast, concerns were expressed that sharing or commenting on social media sexual health information may lead to judgements and discrimination. While social media reaches a high proportion of the population, dating apps can easily target MSM. However, tensions exist between the ability to provide information at an opportune time through dating apps, when users are connecting with new sexual partners, with the potential to adversely affect the app user's experience. Hypothetical and actual uses and impacts of sexual health information ranged from no impact to reading information, sharing with peers, and increased awareness, to influencing healthcare-seeking, decision-making and risk-taking behaviours. Ensuring that information is engaging, positive in tone, not too clinical, focused on building social norms and delivered by trusted organisations were viewed as important for supporting its use. Conclusions: Overall, these findings support the development of new interventions that use dating apps and social media for sexual health promotion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1236
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is a collaboration between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions and the NIHR HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at UCL in partnership with Public Health England and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The study is supported by the Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol, in partnership with Public Health England. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or Public Health England. JK is partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West (CLAHRC West) at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions at University of Bristol in partnership with Public Health England. KD is funded by in part by grant MR/N0137941/1 for the GW4 BIOMED DTP, awarded to the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter from the Medical Research Council (MRC)/ UKRI. IO is partly funded by NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions and Public Health England. MH is partly funded by NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol in partnership with Public Health England. CHM, GH, AR and PW are partly funded by the NIHR HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at UCL in partnership with Public Health England and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. PC, IS are funded by Public Health England. FB is funded by University College London. AH is funded by an NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research. We acknowledge members of the NIHR HPRU in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections Steering Committee: Caroline Sabin, Anthony Nardone, Catherine H. Mercer, Gwenda Hughes, Greta Rait, Jackie Cassell, William Rosenberg, Tim Rhodes, Kholoud Porter, Sema Mandal and Samreen Ijaz.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Acceptability
  • Dating apps
  • Men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM)
  • Qualitative research
  • Sexual health information
  • Social media

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