Content analysis of promotional material for asthma-related products and therapies on Instagram

Author Department

Healthcare Quality; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Background: Increasingly, social media is a source for information about health and disease self-management. We conducted a content analysis of promotional asthma-related posts on Instagram to understand whether promoted products and services are consistent with the recommendations found in the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) 2019 guidelines.

Methods: We collected every Instagram post incorporating a common, asthma-related hashtag between September 29, 2019 and October 5, 2019. Of these 2936 collected posts, we analyzed a random sample of 266, of which, 211 met our inclusion criteria. Using an inductive, qualitative approach, we categorized the promotional posts and compared each post's content with the recommendations contained in the 2019 GINA guidelines. Posts were categorized as "consistent with GINA" if the content was supported by the GINA guidelines. Posts that promoted content that was not recommended by or was unrelated to the guidelines were categorized as "not supported by GINA".

Results: Of 211 posts, 89 (42.2%) were promotional in nature. Of these, a total of 29 (32.6%) were categorized as being consistent with GINA guidelines. The majority of posts were not supported by the guidelines. Forty-one (46.1%) posts promoted content that was not recommended by the current guidelines. Nineteen (21.3%) posts promoted content that was unrelated to the guidelines. The majority of unsupported content promoted non-pharmacological therapies (n = 39, 65%) to manage asthma, such as black seed oil, salt-room therapy, or cupping.

Conclusions: The majority of Instagram posts in our sample promoted products or services that were not supported by GINA guidelines. These findings suggest a need for providers to discuss online health information with patients and highlight an opportunity for providers and social media companies to promote evidence-based asthma treatments and self-management advice online.

Keywords: Asthma; Clinical guidelines; Internet; Misinformation; Qualitative methods; Social media.