Social Media and Cancer Communication in Ghana: Application of the Information Processing Model


Cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Africa. Although infectious diseases are prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the overall burden in the region attributable to cancer has been on the rise (Morhason et al., 2013). Ghana, with an estimated 16,000 cases of cancer occurrences each year has among the highest incidence of cancer-related deaths in Africa (Stefan, et al 2013). The high mortality in Ghana, like in other African countries, has been associated with poor awareness and education, attitudes about the disease and prevention interventions, as well as cultural values, beliefs, and practices that oftentimes become barriers for screening and treatment.

With the increasing need to educate and motivate people to take action in cancer prevention, social media has become a tool for cancer communication in Ghana and other African countries where internet access and mobile phone penetration has increased rapidly in the past two decades. Social media not only inform and educate but provide online platforms for interactions around a health issue (Hamm et al, 2013) , as members engage in content development, sharing, and commenting. Although many studies have focused on understanding the effect of media in health communication in Ghana, (e.g. Kloku, 2015) limited research exists on social media effectiveness in cancer communication.

This study is an analysis of social media cancer communication in Ghana. It is a case study of non-governmental health organizations’ social media intervention. Using McGuire’s Information Processing Theory that focuses on the input and output matrix in the process of persuasion in communication, the study analyzes the source and message variables (credibility, content) and the audience variables (knowledge, attitudes, and level of involvement).

Data for this study are gathered through an online survey that is distributed through cancer communications organizations’ Facebook and WhatsApp pages, the two most commonly used social media platforms in Ghana. Results will show a relationship between knowledge about various cancers and prevention methods and the level of social media involvement in cancer communication. Attitudes toward the message and source are also associated with the level of involvement and source credibility. Furthermore, the participants’ assessment of the message will be associated with their attitudes towards cancer prevention and treatment services available. The study will make recommendations for cancer communication through social media that are specific to Ghana as several health organizations adopt the eHealth strategy.


Morhason-Bello, (2013). Challenges and opportunities in cancer control in Africa: a perspective from the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer. The lancet oncology, 14(4), e142-e151.

Stefan, D. C., (2013). Developing cancer control plans in Africa: examples from five countries. The lancet oncology, 14(4), e189-e195.

Kloku, C. A. (2015). Awareness and prevention of cervical cancer among female health professionals: a study of three health institutions in Winneba, Ghana (Doctoral dissertation).

Hamm, M. P., (2013). Social media use by health care professionals and trainees: a scoping review. Academic Medicine, 88(9), 1376-1383.