190284 Sources of health and sexual health information: Where do young people go when they have questions?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sarah A. Smith, MPH , Department of Community and Family Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Hollie Jo Fuhrmann, MA , Community and Family Health, University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, FL
Eric R. Buhi, MPH, PhD, CHES , College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Ellen Daley, PhD , Department of Community and Family Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Objectives: Online health information sources have grown exponentially, as well as young people's use of such sources for learning about embarrassing topics. Our research objective was to understand college students' past online health and sexual health information seeking behaviors, and to learn what sexual health topics are sought online most frequently.

Methods: As part of a broader observational research study, we administered a confidential self-reported survey to 34 undergraduate students, aged 18-19, enrolled in Introduction to Anthropology courses. Of the students who were interested, we purposively selected those who made our sample representative of the USF student body. The paper-and-pencil survey, self-administered in an office setting, asked respondents about their Internet experience, past online health information searching behavior, and demographic characteristics. We calculated statistics using SPSS 15.0.

Results: 82.2% of respondents reported using the Internet several times per day. Of 17 health information topics listed on the survey, information about sexual health was the most frequently reported health topic sought online (76.5%). Popular sexual health topics sought online included STIs, preventing pregnancy, contraception, genitalia, and normal sexual behavior, presented in order of their popularity.

Conclusion: Based on our findings, college students are using the Internet as a primary source of information for sexual health topics, and most other health topics. More research regarding their search behaviors, Internet and health literacy, as well as the quality of information they retrieve is needed.

Learning Objectives:
1. To assess where 18-19 year old college students go for health information, and more specifically, sexual health information. 2. To identify the most common health topics and specific sexual health topics college students seek out and where they turn for this information. 3. To evaluate the feelings these college students most frequently experience when seeking out health information on the Internet.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted the research under the guidance of more experienced health researchers (Professors). I am a student of Community and Family Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health, and a specific interest in Sexual Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.