Healthy Body Image Intervention Delivered to Young Women via Facebook Groups: Formative Study of Engagement and Acceptability

Jerod L. Stapleton, Sharon L. Manne, Ashley K. Day, Kristine Levonyan-Radloff, Sherry L. Pagoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: There is increasing interest in using social media sites such as Facebook to deliver health interventions so as to expose people to content while they are engaging in their usual social media habit. This formative intervention development study is novel in describing a preliminary test of using the secret group feature of Facebook to deliver a behavioral intervention targeting users of indoor tanning beds to reduce their risk of skin cancer. Intervention content was designed to challenge body image-related constructs associated with indoor tanning through the use of dissonance-inducing content. Objective: To evaluate engagement with and acceptability of using a secret Facebook group to deliver a healthy body image intervention to young women engaged in indoor tanning. Methods: Seventeen young women completed a baseline survey and joined a secret Facebook group with intervention content delivered via daily posts for 4 weeks. Engagement data was extracted and acceptability was measured via a follow-up survey. Results: The study had a high retention rate (94%, [16/17]). On average, posts were viewed by 91% of participants, liked by 35%, and commented on by 26%. The average comment rate was highest (65%) for posts that elicited comments by directly posing questions or discussion topics to the group. Average intervention acceptability ratings were highly positive and participants reported feeling connected to the group and its topic. Average rates of past 1-month indoor tanning reported following the intervention were lower than the baseline rate (P=.08, Cohen d=0.47). Conclusions: This study is novel in demonstrating participant engagement with and acceptability of using Facebook secret groups to deliver a dissonance-inducing intervention approach that utilizes group-based discussions related to body image. The study is also unique within the field of skin cancer prevention by demonstrating the potential value of delivering an indoor tanning intervention within an interactive social media format. The findings suggest that Facebook metrics of intervention post engagement (ie, likes and comments) may vary based on post types and that designing specifically labeled discussion posts may be helpful for soliciting engagement as well as challenging beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©Jerod L Stapleton, Sharon L Manne, Ashley K Day, Kristine Levonyan-Radloff, Sherry L Pagoto.


  • Behavioral intervention
  • Body image
  • Dissonance-based intervention
  • Facebook
  • Indoor tanning bed
  • Prevention
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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