Health Bits: Social media can change behaviour

City Press health reporter Zinhle Mapumulo’s pick of new health and lifestyle research

» Social media can change health behaviour

Social media can change health-related behaviour, a new study has revealed.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal, this week, was conducted by the University of California.

Researchers recruited 112 men who have sex with men through adverts placed on social networking sites. The men were randomly assigned to an HIV intervention group or a general health group on Facebook where they participated in discussions.

The HIV group discussed HIV prevention and testing, while those in the control group communicated about the importance of exercising, eating right and maintaining a low-stress lifestyle.

Throughout the study, the men were able to request and receive home-based HIV self-testing kits.

Findings showed that 44% of the HIV intervention group requested the testing kits, compared with 20% of the control group.

» Swallowing exercise helps head and neck cancer patients

A study at University of California’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has found head and neck cancer patients receiving radiation as part of their treatment were less likely to need a feeding tube or suffer narrowing of the throat passage if they performed a set of swallowing exercises during therapy. The exercises are known as “swallow preservation protocol”.

» Reversing learning disabilities

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore have discovered a compound that reverses learning disabilities.

The compound, known as sonic hedgehog pathway agonist, was tested in laboratory mice with a condition similar to Down’s syndrome.

The mice were given the compound on the day of their birth.

The compound dramatically boosted their learning ability and memory.

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