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J Med Internet Res. 2012 Jun 4;14(3):e79. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2063.

Using crowdsourcing technology for testing multilingual public health promotion materials.

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  • 1Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.



Effective communication of public health messages is a key strategy for health promotion by public health agencies. Creating effective health promotion materials requires careful message design and feedback from representatives of target populations. This is particularly true when the target audiences are hard to reach as limited English proficiency groups. Traditional methods of soliciting feedback--such as focus groups and convenience sample interviews--are expensive and time consuming. As a result, adequate feedback from target populations is often insufficient due to the time and resource constraints characteristic to public health.


To describe a pilot study investigating the use of crowdsourcing technology as a method to gather rapid and relevant feedback on the design of health promotion messages for oral health. Our goal was to better describe the demographics of participants responding to a crowdsourcing survey and to test whether crowdsourcing could be used to gather feedback from English-speaking and Spanish-speaking participants in a short period of time and at relatively low costs.


We developed health promotion materials on pediatric dental health issues in four different formats and in two languages (English and Spanish). We then designed an online survey to elicit feedback on format preferences and made it available in both languages via the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform.


We surveyed 236 native English-speaking and 163 native Spanish-speaking participants in less than 12 days, at a cost of US $374. Overall, Spanish-speaking participants originated from a wider distribution of countries than the overall Latino population in the United States. Most participants were in the 18- to 29-year age range and had some college or graduate education. Participants provided valuable input for the health promotion material design.


Our results indicate that crowdsourcing can be an effective method for recruiting and gaining feedback from English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people. Compared with traditional methods, crowdsourcing has the potential to reach more diverse populations than convenience sampling, while substantially reducing the time and cost of gathering participant feedback. More widespread adoption of this method could streamline the development of effective health promotion materials in multiple languages.

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