Understanding the Adoption of Dietary Interventions Within a Chinese Autism Online Community : A Diffusion of Innovations Perspective

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationHealth Communication
Publication statusOnline published - 8 Mar 2022


Dietary interventions are common but controversial treatments for autistic people. This study aims to understand the adoption of dietary interventions based on diffusion of innovations theory in the autism online community from four aspects: popularity, adoption process, the influence of opinion leaders, and post-adoption feedback. Our data was extracted from a Chinese autism community named Baidu Tieba autism forum. We applied a mixed-method including four analytical approaches: descriptive statistics for popularity analysis; machine learning models for automatic data classification and topic detection; social network analysis for exploring the influence of opinion leaders on the adoption phase; content analysis for revealing the family caregiver-reported feedback after adoption. Dietary interventions have become increasingly popular in the autism online community since 2018. Analysis of the adoption process revealed that family caregivers at different stages of adoption focused on different topics, and the number of interactions with opinion leaders had a significant effect on the highest level (p < .001) and stage span (p < .001) of health information adoption. According to findings from the feedback of family caregivers, the effects of dietary interventions varied from individuals with autism. Our study revealed the diffusion of unproven interventions, which is of great significance in promoting evidence-based practices.

Research Area(s)

  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Online Health Communities, Dietary Intervention, Machine Learning, Diffusion of Innovations, Opinion Leaders, SPECTRUM DISORDER, CHILDREN