Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 17.07.44.pngMedical Aid Films has more than 300 films in 25 languages on a wide range of maternal and child health issues including Emergency Obstetric & Neonatal Care, SRHR, Nutrition, Zika & Paediatric HIV. Since establishing our YouTube channel in 2011, we have had over 14 million views of our films in over 100 countries/ territories (just under 5 million in 2018) with 43,000 current subscribers (and growing rapidly).  Here’s the link to our channel:

YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine and is certainly a place where many people seek health information. It provides Medical Aid Films with the widest reach of viewers by far in comparison to other social media platforms, with most of our views coming from YouTube recommendations via searches or after watching related content. It is possible to group content into curricula or subject areas; viewers can share films easily, and “cards” (clickable interactive elements embedded within videos) offer viewers links to additional resources, information and downloads from websites. It offers closed captioning in multiple languages and can even “crowd-source” translations from audiences. Youtube has democratised the media landscape in the sense that individuals can access health care beyond national providers or broadcasters.

Communication is not just one-way – YouTube presents the opportunity to connect and communicate with audiences and other channels. Analytics can disaggregate viewers by geographic location, language, gender, age, device used and other demographics, making it possible to respond to trends or specific audiences. Our viewers (from health workers to medical students) regularly provide feedback on our films and how they are being used for training or studying.  For example, one health worker trainer commented: “Let me give you a little testimonial on this video – we had a presentation on the HPPI (immediate postpartuum haemorrhage) undergoing neonatal emergency obstetric care; after our presentation we screened How to Manage Bleeding After Birth [French translation] that dazzled everyone and we had a good rating and a good review from the other students.  Thank you very much”.

We are all aware of the challenges and dangers presented by inaccurate and poor quality health information available on platforms such as YouTube and the algorithms’ inability to filter out misinformation.  A less obvious challenge is the need for optimisation work, required to maintain or increase the accessibility of good quality educational films. This is due to the way in which YouTube’s algorithm lends itself to prioritise traffic to certain types of videos and channels that behave in a (changeable) fashion. The way videos are uploaded onto YouTube in terms of titles, images, tags/descriptions, translations, regularity of uploads, cards and general channel ‘hygiene’ can be as important to increasing views, if not more important, than the appeal or relevance of the content itself.

In spite of these challenges, Medical Aid Films believes that YouTube’s massive reach offers the potential to share our educational films with a wider global audience and disseminate content quickly in response to pressing global healthcare issues or emergencies. But this requires more than simply uploading films to the platform and so it is vital to optimise films in a way that YouTube’s algorithm can refer content to relevant audiences.

Helen Coombe
Head of Evaluation and Research

Medical Aid Films, c/o Doctors of the World, 29th Floor, One Canada Square, London, E14 5AA
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HIFA profile: Helen Coombe is Head of Evaluation and Research at Medical Aid Films, UK.