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Considering the Impact of Social Media on Contemporary Improvement of Australian Aboriginal Health: Scoping Review

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Authors: Troy Walker, Claire Palermo & Karen Klassen

Background: Social media may have a significant role in influencing the present and future health implications among Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet there has been no review of the role of social media in improving health.
Objective: This study aims to examine the extent of health initiatives using social media that aimed to improve the health of Australian Aboriginal communities.

Methods: A scoping review was conducted by systematically searching databases CINAHL Plus; PubMed; Scopus; Web of Science, and Ovid MEDLINE in June 2017 using the terms and their synonyms “Aboriginal” and “Social media.” In addition, reference lists of included studies and the Indigenous HealthInfonet gray literature were searched. Key information about the social media intervention and its impacts on health were extracted and data synthesized using narrative summaries.

Results: Five papers met inclusion criteria. All included studies were published in the past 5 years and involved urban, rural, and remote Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 12-60 years. No studies reported objective impacts on health. Three papers found that social media provided greater space for sharing health messages in a 2-way exchange. The negative portrayal of Aboriginal people and negative health impacts of social media were described in 2 papers.

Conclusions: Social media may be a useful strategy to provide health messages and sharing of content among Aboriginal people, but objective impacts on health remain unknown. More research is necessary on social media as a way to connect, communicate, and improve Aboriginal health with particular emphasis on community control, self-empowerment, and decolonization.