Arul Chib

Michael Cody, Chair
François Bar, Thomas Valente

Network Influences in Health Initiatives: Multimedia Games for Youth in Peru

The spread of contagious STDs, HIV/AIDS, and unintended pregnancies in developing nations is a source of concern, especially for marginalized youth. This study examined how information and communication technologies (ICTs) could bridge gaps in their knowledge and attitudes about sexual and reproductive health. The dissertation observed the use of a technology-mediated gaming system to educate Peruvian youths. Working in collaboration with an NGO, Instituto Peruano de Paternidad Responsable, 108 boys and 111 girls living in the barrios of Lima were randomly assigned to two conditions, an interactive computer-based multimedia game and a traditional board game. The research design consisted of pre and post-intervention surveys. The study utilized social network analysis to include social influences in a mixed-influence model.

We find that technology-mediated game playing was equally effective as traditional health interventions in producing significant improvements in respondents’ knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy. Further, personal peer resistance self-efficacy was a positive influence in guarding against developing negative attitudes. Social self-efficacy was in turn positively correlated with the individuals’ position in the social network. Finally, the nature of the social link determined the extent to which one’s associates could influence self knowledge and attitudes. In this particular case, advice networks were more influential than friendship networks. A framework for the multivariate relationships, based on Rimal’s (2003) model, is proposed. This extended the health model, based on social cognitive theory, to the entire social network. ICTs can provide an advantage, in terms of innovation, interactivity, and social networking, for use in health interventions in developing countries.

Keywords: Social cognitive theory, diffusion of innovations, health, HIV, ICT, network, multimedia, games, youth, Peru