Toronto doctor using TikTok to deliver public health messaging to young people
TORONTO -- When he’s not busy working as a palliative care physician in Toronto and Peel Region, Dr. Naheed Dosani is connecting with young people and creating viral videos on social media.
“I realized that I wanted to get out there and reach large audiences to educate them,” Dosani tells CTV News Toronto. “So I started making videos using a platform called TikTok, and I quickly learned that TikTok was a very powerful medium.”
So powerful that Dosani’s videos, collectively, have around a million views. His most popular videos, which are generally 15 second clips, have well over 100,000 views each.
“I’ve posted videos that are focused on the importance of hand washing, infection prevention strategies, why we physically distance, updates from health Canada, and then even nuanced topics like COVID equity issues,” Dosani explains. “It’s positive, it’s engaging, it’s energetic. They’re relatable to people.”
“I think these videos are great. They’re perfect TikTok videos,” Aimee Morrison, social and digital media professor at the University of Waterloo, said. “[Dosani] is bringing that public health message to young people in a format that they are primed to engage with on a platform where they’re all already hanging out and he’s doing it in a way that’s really catchy and engaging.”
Dosani is hoping to engage people under the age of 40, who he says have recently been targeted by politicians in a way that is not engaging for their age group.
“The predominant way that messaging is getting out there from our government officials tends to be these press conferences that occur in the middle of the day when people are at school or at work,” he says. “When the messaging is coming out, it tends to be a tone of often frustration and a lot of blaming and even shaming people who are under the age of 40. And when I talk to my friends who are under the age of 40, they say this kind of messaging doesn’t resonate with them.”
Morrison says that young people are also not consuming traditional media, and that they are influenced when the information is coming from someone they trust. She used Taylor Swift as an example when it came to online voter registration in 2018.
Morrison adds that when healthcare professionals are believed by people on social media, they are likely to influence behaviours.
“We have to tailor the message to the group that’s going to receive it, and you have to have that message coming from someone that that group of people is inclined to trust and want to follow,” she tells CTV News Toronto.
Dosani says he hopes he’s building trust with the online community, and that he’ll continue to use social media platforms to connect.
“For people under 40, using these platforms is a must,” he adds. “My hope is that this content and my videos are providing a source of positive reinforcement and motivating support for people during this pandemic.”
You can find Dr. Naheed Dosani’s videos here.