Online Narratives and Peer Support for Colorectal Cancer Screening A Pilot Randomized Trial Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Delivering personal narratives and peer support for CRC screening in an online weight-loss community could be an efficient approach to engaging individuals at increased risk, because obesity is associated with excess colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality and lower screening rates. PURPOSE: Evaluate user engagement and impact of narratives and peer support for promoting CRC screening in an online weight-loss community. DESIGN: Pilot randomized trial. SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Members of an online weight-loss community who were not up-to-date with CRC screening were enrolled in the study in 2011. INTERVENTION: Basic and Enhanced groups (n=153 each) both received education. The Enhanced group also received narratives and peer support for CRC screening in online forums. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main measures were user engagement, psychosocial outcomes, and self-report CRC screening at 6 months. Analyses were conducted with (1) the full sample of participants and (2) a minimum dose sample of those who participated in their assigned intervention to a minimum degree. Analyses were completed in 2012. RESULTS: Participants were mostly female (92%) with a mean age of 56 years. More than 90% in both groups viewed the educational information. Only 57% in the Enhanced group joined the online team. The Enhanced group had greater improvement in motivation for screening than the Basic group at 1 month (p=0.03). In the full sample, there was no difference in CRC screening at 6 months (Enhanced 19% vs Basic 16%, adjusted OR=1.33, 95% CI=0.73, 2.42). In the minimum dose sample, fecal occult blood testing was higher in the Enhanced (14%) vs Basic (7%) group (adjusted OR=2.49, 95% CI=1.01, 6.17). CONCLUSIONS: Although no between-group differences in CRC screening were seen at 6 months, this study did demonstrate that it is feasible to deploy a narrative and peer support intervention for CRC screening in a randomized trial among members of an online community. However, modifications are needed to improve user engagement. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at NCT01411826.

altmetric score

  • 3.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Hwang, K. O., Ottenbacher, A. J., Graham, A. L., Thomas, E. J., Street, R. L., & Vernon, S. W.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • July 2013