Former nurse, videographer Julien Ménielle created the YouTube channel “Dans Ton Corps” in April 2016, at a time when the subject of health was little exploited on the video platform.
Why Doctor: What were you doing before YouTube?
I was a nurse for about ten years so I was immersed in the world of health for a long time. But around 2007, I was having a bit of an overdose and the working conditions ended up disgusting me, so I left the hospital. I continued as a liberal nurse and I did health coaching by telephone, then I stopped. At that time, I didn’t want to hear about health any more. I went back to studying journalism at a professional retraining school (EMI-CFD) and became a journalist at 20 minutes. It was there that I met a certain Cyprien, a well-known videographer on YouTube, and we became friends. Then I moved to assistant video editor. After a while, I wanted to make videos just for me, the way I wanted to process them, without the weight of a big machine behind it.
“I have always used humor as an educational vector, even in the hospital”
How did this YouTube channel project, now one of the largest health popularization channels in France with 715,000 subscribers, come into being in 2016? And why ultimately health?
It was a time when popular science was starting to do well on YouTube, and, in reality, health wasn’t necessarily my first choice. At first, I wanted to do humor, fiction. And then I quickly said to myself that there were really a lot of people and that I didn’t necessarily have anything more to contribute, even though I had health skills, something that wasn’t covered much on the platform. I said to myself that I had always used humor as an educational vector, even when I was in the hospital. What I’m doing on YouTube today is very much like the nurse-specific role of patient information and education that I’ve always played. So, obviously, we don’t talk to a patient in intensive care like we talk to people in front of their phone on YouTube! But at the time already, I always tried to convey the information with somewhat funny references and jokes to play down the drama. I also found that it was easier for patients to understand the situation with references that speak to them rather than with medical jargon. So if I could make people laugh by talking about very serious subjects in hospital duty rooms, I thought I could also do it on YouTube. I talked to Cyprien about it, he encouraged me and helped me get started. Quite quickly, it became my full-time job.
Why is it important for you to address health issues on this platform?
At the time, few people talked about health on social networks. That’s not true at all in 2023. Now many are talking about it, and some may be talking a lot of nonsense, including former reality TV contestants who want to sell miracle products that supposedly kill “cancer cells” (Dylan Thiry, editor’s note) or lifestyle influencers who promote trends like the butthole sunning. Since there are all these people who talk nonsense, either out of ideology or financial interest, with recommendations sometimes dangerous to health, it is important that we, the popularizers, speak up so as not to leave them the field free and all the space on the networks, in order to bring another story with information that is scientifically validated. The problem is that it is difficult to separate things for the viewers, in front of the amount of health information that can be found on social networks. There is a huge job of media education, information, critical thinking, to be done.
“For somewhat specific health topics, I call on the experts”
Do you call on health professionals in the writing of your videos?
It’s not systematic but it happens regularly. In particular, I made a video on food, which was called “How to really eat well?” and I had four or five researchers who helped me write it. For subjects that are a bit specific and on which there are no immediately identifiable resources, I call on experts. On very academic subjects, it’s not too difficult to find information with reliable studies and people to ask questions. Where it’s more complicated is on everyday subjects, for example why we have frizzy hair when it rains, or how to overcome the Hangover, etc. There, it is less easy to find researchers since these are phenomena that have not really been studied in detail.
What would you say to someone who wants, like you in 2016, to start a YouTube channel project in the field of health?
Even if I understand that everyone does not necessarily share this point of view, I do not assume that one is not obliged to have a very specialized initial training in the field that one wants to deal with and to be basically a health professional to talk about health. If you are someone very interested in these subjects, who has a real research methodology and who gives voice in its content to professionals recognized for their knowledge, for me, it works. There are plenty of examples today, like Nota Bene who popularizes history even though he is not a historian! And yet he has a chain which is unanimously recognized, including by historians, as being of high quality, because he is an enthusiast who works seriously and who surrounds himself with experts who know what they are talking about. For me, there is a way to be able to do the same thing on health issues.
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