Health Net: Using Social Media to Improve Teen Health.

With the average teen spending approximately nine hours a week on social networking sites, the UCLA School of Public Health has partnered with Health Net of California to develop a health literacy training intervention using social media to encourage adolescents ages 13 to 17 to utilize their health care more effectively.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.1 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, will use a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of two different interventions a Web-based social media intervention and a usual care intervention to improve preventive care and decrease emergency room visits among adolescents.

“Over 90 percent of teens today use social networking sites, not just to interact with their peers but also to get information about issues that are important to them,” said Michael Prelip, a professor of community health sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health and one of the principal investigators of the project. “This intervention will provide important clues about the effectiveness of social media in influencing adolescents understanding of their health care rights, responsibilities and benefits so that they can become good health care consumers.”

Health Net initially approached UCLA in 2007 to partner on the grant opportunity, which was successfully awarded two years later.

While 88 percent of teens have health insurance, they may have little experience or skill using the current health care system effectively, said the projects principal investigator, Deborah Glik, a UCLA professor of community health sciences.

“One of our chief goals is establishing best practices for encouraging teens to use their insurance and the health care system so they can become knowledgeable health care consumers as they transition into adulthood,” said Nancy Wongvipat Kalev, Health Net’s director of Health Education and Cultural and Linguistic Services and one of the study’s collaborators. Health Net and the UCLA School of Public Health have a shared goal of ensuring that everyone makes effective use of his or her doctor’s services and that we both understand what motivates young people to access care.

The study will assess the impact of various traditional and newer social media interventions on utilization patterns, health literacy, preventive health care interactions with primary care providers, adoption of preventive health practices, health information-seeking, and attitudes toward health care.

About Health Net

Health Net of California, a subsidiary of Health Net Inc., is one of the largest health plans in the state. Together with Health Net Life Insurance Company, it serves more than 2.2 million members statewide and contracts with more than 56,000 physicians, 300-plus hospitals and nearly 5,000 pharmacies, giving its members greater choice and more convenient access to care. Its commercial HMO and POS, Medicare, and Medicaid lines of business have received “excellent” accreditation status from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. For more information about Health Net, visit its website at

About The UCLA School of Public Health

The UCLA School of Public Health is dedicated to enhancing the public’s health by conducting innovative research; training future leaders and health professionals; translating research into policy and practice; and serving local, national and international communities. For more information, visit

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