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E-Media Use and Preferences for Physical Activity and Public Health Information: Results of a Web-Based Survey

Jake-Schoffman, Danielle, E., PhD; Wilcox, Sara, PhD; Kaczynski, Andrew, T., PhD; Turner-McGrievy, Gabrielle, PhD, MS, RD; Friedman, Daniela, B., PhD; West, Delia, S., PhD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: July/August 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue 4 - p 385–391
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000638
Research Reports: Research Full Report

Context: As social media (eg, Twitter) continues to gain widespread popularity, health research and practice organizations may consider combining it with other electronic media (e-media) channels (eg, Web sites, e-newsletters) within their communication plans. However, little is known about added benefits of using social media when trying to reach public health audiences about physical activity.

Objective: Learn about current use and preference for e-media communication channels among physical activity researchers and practitioners.

Design: A Web-based survey was used, open for responses from August 20, 2015, through January 5, 2016. Survey participation was voluntary and anonymous. The survey was advertised through multiple channels targeting physical activity researchers and practitioners, including announcements on professional listservs and in e-newsletters, Twitter, and posts on Facebook pages of public health organizations.

Setting and Participants: A total of 284 survey respondents had complete data.

Main Outcome Measures: Typical use of e-media to receive, seek out, and share information about physical activity and health and what appeals to researchers and practitioners for professional use.

Results: Most respondents preferred non–social media channels to social media and these preferences did not differ widely when examining subgroups such as researchers versus practitioners or social media users versus nonusers. There were few differences by respondent demographics, though younger respondents reported using social media more than older respondents. However, limiting analyses to respondents who identified as social media users, only about 1% of respondents ranked social media sources as their preferred channels for information; thus, most people would continue to be reached if communication remained largely via non–social media e-media channels.

Conclusions: The present study supports growing evidence that careful surveying of a target audience should be undertaken when considering new communication channels, as preference and use may not support the effort required to create and maintain resource-intensive strategies like social media.

Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts (Dr Jake-Schoffman); and Prevention Research Center (Drs Wilcox and Kaczynski) and Departments of Exercise Science (Drs Wilcox and West) and Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (Drs Kaczynski, Turner-McGrievy, and Friedman), Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correspondence: Danielle E. Jake-Schoffman, PhD, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Ave North, Worcester, MA 01655 (

This project was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number U48DP005000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

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