Facebook is the most popular and frequently used social media website in US. One third of American adults reported using social network sites, such as Facebook or Twitter as a source of health information. Our study aimed to determine the quality of health information on Facebook pages dedicated to food allergy.
Facebook main page was searched for “food allergy” to retrieve top ten pages dedicated to the topic. A 0-9 score for quality content was developed based on the guidelines by National Library of Medicine, focusing on 9 domains: author/organization, reviewer, contact info, authenticity, language used (simple vs scientific), evidence-based vs. opinion, references vs. testimonials, current information, sponsorship, commercial interest. The score was used to analyze the last 10 posts of each Facebook page. Posts were categorized into 5 groups: food ingredient alerts, patient education, research news, event announcements, legislation updates.
37% of posts were announcements/advertisements, 29% were related to patient education, 9% legislation updates, only 5% were research news. Quality score was relatively high with an average of 7.1 (0-9). Most pages were by patient advocate organizations. Only one was by a physician specialty organization, and one by an allergy practice.
In spite of the wide popularity of Facebook, only a minority of the pages on food allergy contained patient education information. A paucity of research news was likely related to low engagement by allergists/immunologists. Professional use of Facebook by allergists/immunologists for patient education and sharing research news should be encouraged and its implications explored.