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MU Students Use YouTube to Promote Healthy Lifestyles

Hundreds of people view students' projects

July 11, 2008

Story Contact:  Kelsey Jackson, (573) 882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Millions of YouTube videos are viewed each day. Few, however, give viewers credible health information. For a class assignment, University of Missouri students in a graduate-level epidemiology class created 60-second YouTube videos about healthy behavior. From reenacting scenes to dressing up as cavemen, the students used their creative talents to produce videos about health risks such as diabetes, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases, and the lifestyle changes that could significantly reduce the risk of these health problems.
           “We’re continually bombarded with misinformation on the Internet,” said Julie Kapp, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the MU School of Medicine. “It’s amazing how quickly YouTube videos can reach a global audience. I wanted to use this powerful technology for something educational and to bring credible information to YouTube. I challenged students to create interesting videos that also communicated epidemiologic information.”

           The videos were targeted at the average American who uses the internet, and each team tailored its messages to specific audiences depending on their disease topic. Students were graded on content, credibility of the message, creativity, peer review and number of YouTube views. Students were required to use references and write a brief description of the basic epidemiology of their disease in the text box section of YouTube, which provides viewers with additional information.

           Kapp encouraged students to take pride in their project and circulate their videos to friends and family. Fifteen days after the videos were posted on YouTube, the 19 student teams in the class averaged 599 viewings. Organizations including the Columbia Public School System, MU Rape Education Office, Department of Family & Community Medicine’s Better Self-Care of Diabetes project and Hospital Corporation of America in Missouri have expressed interest in using the videos. 

           “Students today are very different than they were 10 years ago,” Kapp said. “I think it’s important to continually update our teaching styles. The students pushed through some initial apprehension with learning the technology and finished with an amazing result. Although more work than a typical paper, this gave the students the opportunity to show off their work to hundreds of people.”

           The Department of Family and Community Medicine focuses on disease prevention and managing chronic illness, which inspired the theme for the videos. To view sample videos, visit the links below:,,,