Researchers have explored using the internet and social media to recruit participants to specific research projects. Less systematic work has been done to inform the engagement of large populations in virtual communities to advance clinical and translational science. We report on our first step to use social media to engage Minnesota residents by studying the willingness of participants to engage in a virtual (Facebook) community about the concepts of health and health-related research.
Data was collected at the 2018 Minnesota State Fair using a cross-sectional, 46-item survey with assessment including socio-demographics and willingness to engage in a Facebook group for health-related research. Quantitative analysis included univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses. Content analysis was used to generate themes from open-ended survey responses.
500 people completed the survey; after data cleaning 418 participant responses informed this report. A majority were younger than age 50 (73%), female (66%), and married/partnered (54%). Overall, 46% of participants agreed/strongly agreed they are willing to join the Facebook group. Multivariate logistic regression identified social media use over the past 6 months as the sole variable independently associated with willingness to join the Facebook group (once a day vs. never or rarely OR=1.82 (0.86, 3.88), several hours a day vs. never or rarely OR=2.17 (1.17, 4.02, overall p-value 0.048).
Facebook holds potential for reaching a broader community, democratizing access to and engagement with clinical and translational research. Social media infrastructure and content could be disseminated to other institutions with Clinical and Translational Science Awards.