Similar to the parents’ behaviour expected, while children need to buy and use certain commodities and services, in terms of health products buying and services use, parents are expected to be the first buyers or users. They are the first buyers or users because they constitute the only persons who could explain the status of children’s health needs or challenges better. This, according to many scholars and professionals in the consumer behaviour field, has been hinged on the premise that parents usually have in-depth understanding of how children feel.
In the course of helping their children in times of health needs or crises, parents have online and offline platforms for seeking necessary information about their children’s health conditions and needs. In the last two decades, the proliferation of new technologies has shaped and still reinventing how parents seek information about health conditions and needs of children globally.
From search engines to social media networking sites, parents are exploring various information with the key interest in solving different health conditions and issues. Google Search Engine has remained one of the most appropriated search engines for information seeking in the last two decades.
Our check indicates that among 51 countries, where parents have significantly developed interest in seeking information about their children’s health status or issues in the last 5 years, Nigeria has been occupying the 6th while Zambia, the United Kingdom, Ghana, Ireland and New Zealand are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively. For the years, skin rashes, children’s medications and issues related or conditions of foot, hand and mouth remain the key concerns [see Exhibit 1].
Despite significant interest in seeking information through the Internet and social networking sites, a number of parents are always skeptical about using the information because of the low quality in most cases. When they sought information, a recent study found that they consulted a physician, consulted a traditional healer, and relied on self-medication or asked friends for suggestions.
Exhibit 1: Key Areas of Concern for Parents Globally
Our analyst notes that having doubts is understandable considering the implications of using quantum of non-medically proved information that abound on the Internet and social networking sites. While there are many groups and people on digital platforms who parade themselves as professionals in child health information provision and guidance without appropriate strategies of creating posts and replying to parents’ requests, ASK THE PAEDIATRICIANS, a group on Facebook, has proved to be a game changer in the digital health information.
This position was established after analysing the Group’s page and official website. The Group, which later transformed to a Foundation, was created the 20th July 2015 by Dr. Gbemisola Boyede, Consultant Paediatrician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
“Ask The Paediatricians has since grown beyond the online platforms which now included the ATP mobile app into a non-profit registered with the corporate affairs corporation of Nigeria in July 2017. Ask The Paediatricians Foundation is fully committed to promotion of the health and welfare of all children globally and especially in Nigeria through our online health education platforms and offline community medical outreaches, Group’s Page notes.
As at the time of analysing the Group, over 600,000 parents, living in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and other countries, are members of the Group. Our analyst also found that complementary feeding, colds, cough, catarrh, child nutrition, childhood immunizations, skin rashes, stool abnormalities, ideal weight and height, miscellaneous child health issues, breastfeeding, medications and mothers’ health issues have been posted by members and reacted to by Paediatricians.
In our analysis, we found that Dr. Gbemisola Boyede and her team’s responses to the members’ questions align with the best practice of replying and educating people on digital health information seeking in the current health information pollution. For instance, Dr Boyede and her team usually inform the members who asked questions to consult relevant doctors rather than engaging in self-medication. As part of reinforcing replies to questions, links of relevant articles are shared by the doctors.
Our analysis also reveals that the Group’s official website has relevant information that parents could explore. One of the unique features of the website is bot addition, which usually encourages parents to ask questions just like what is obtainable on the Group’s Facebook page.