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Impact of COVID-19 on the outreach strategy of cancer social service agencies in Singapore: A pre-post analysis with Facebook data

Published: 1 June 2021
Journal of Biomedical Informatics , Volume 118; doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2021.103798

Abstract: The Singapore government implemented multiple restrictive measures as the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) spread through the community, thereby affecting the support service of cancer-related social service agencies (cancer-SSAs). We are interested to understand how Singapore’s cancer-SSAs utilized the social media platform Facebook to overcome the restrictions which were introduced due to COVID-19. Facebook posts from two prominent cancer-SSAs 365 Cancer Prevention Society (365CPS) and Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) between comparable periods in 2019 and 2020 were extracted. These posts were categorized using a classification scheme which was specifically developed by two coders with adequate intercoder reliability. Statistical analyses were performed to determine if there was a significant difference in the frequency of posts between 2019 and 2020, and across three specific periods in 2020. Results indicate that 365CPS appears to have adapted to the pandemic by increasing their posting frequency on Facebook in 2020, but the same was not evident for SCS. However, both SSAs tweaked their social media outreach strategy in line with social distancing measures, publishing posts detailing activities that beneficiaries can participate from home such as healthy recipes and virtual events. SSAs can scale up their efforts to achieve a higher level of health promotion and support for their beneficiaries. Further qualitative studies are required to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 from the perspective of beneficiaries and validate the classification scheme which was developed in this study. The classification scheme could be used in ascertaining the quality of social media communication between public/private support groups and patients.
Keywords: COVID-19 / Cancer social service agencies / Facebook / Social media outreach / Social service agencies

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