A surprising ally in the fight against cancer: “mommy bloggers”
It can be hard to find trustworthy online sources, especially when it comes to health information. A UF Health Cancer Center researcher has found a way to relay scientifically based breast cancer information to mothers through sources that women reportedly trust and relate to — “mommy bloggers.”
Carla L. Fisher, Ph.D., a cancer behavior scientist, set out to find a way to disseminate evidence-informed breast cancer messages that would resonate with mothers and daughters, motivating them to talk about environmental breast cancer risk and lifestyle changes they could make together to reduce their risk.
Fisher and her colleague Kevin Wright, Ph.D., of George Mason University, are scientists in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program, or BCERP —a program of scientists and community partners created more than two decades ago to identify environmental breast cancer risk factors. Through a study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Fisher and Wright teamed to develop a social media intervention to communicate environmental breast cancer risk information to mothers and daughters.
Fisher’s research shows that mothers and daughters are concerned about their risk but find talking about the topic challenging. Research demonstrates that online, third-party sources can help them navigate these conversations. Women who use the internet for health information and mothers often turn to “mommy bloggers,” women who make a living by blogging — online journaling — about motherhood and various aspects of life, as a trusted source.
“What we see in the research is that mothers often identify with mommy bloggers,” Fisher said. “They even, in a way, develop a sense of a relationship and a community within that social media group.”
The community of mommy bloggers presented Fisher and Wright an opportunity to distribute evidence-based information.
“With social media, you can cast a wide net, reaching more people,” Fisher said. “The dissemination can keep going on and on and on, because of the various connected platforms people use.”
Fisher and Wright developed collaborations with 75 mommy bloggers to spread evidence-based information from BCERP’s free online toolkit that was created for mothers. With their research team members, they created a shareable, uneditable infographic to incorporate into a blog post that provided mothers and daughters four action steps to take to reduce their risk. The researchers also provided the bloggers with an uneditable introduction paragraph to include to assure readers that the information was coming from a trusted source.
Keeping with the theme of their blogs, the mommy bloggers were encouraged to write the blog in a way that would resonate with their readers. With blogs being shareable, the message made it onto several platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
“We did see that there was an impact,” Fisher said. “It shows that this is an angle that we want to utilize more and a partnership that can bridge the social media community of mothers out there in society with the science community.”
The blog posts reached more than 400 mothers, and the impact didn’t stop at getting the message to a wider net of people. The researchers also found mothers exposed to the blogs were more satisfied with the breast cancer risk information, more motivated to engage in risk-reducing behavior, and more likely to share the breast cancer risk reduction tips with their daughters.
“Mothers said that when the information is presented on something like social media, it’s much easier to talk to their kids because it’s less personalized,” Fisher said. “The information on social media can facilitate a less emotionally charged conversation about cancer, particularly in a way where you’re not scaring and frightening your kids.”