196969 Internet Access, Internet Health Information-Seeking Behaviors, and Numeracy

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stephanie Sargent Weaver, PhD MPH CHES , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Frederick Fridinger, DrPH CHES , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
James B. Weaver III, PhD MPH , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Darren Mays, MPH , Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Objectives. Numeracy, also called quantitative literacy, reflects an individual's preference to apply mathematical knowledge to everyday tasks including the use and evaluation of health and medical information. This research examines accessing the internet and engaging in internet health information-seeking behaviors (iHISB) as corollaries of perceptions about communicating health information with numbers.

Methods. Data were drawn from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS, n=6,174). Assessments of internet access and iHISB were combined forming a measure with three levels (not accessing the internet, accessing internet without iHISB, and engaging in iHISB). Measures assessing numeracy included understanding medical statistics (“very hard” [1] to “very easy” [4]) and a preference for outcome probabilities expressed as either words or numbers (both dichotomously coded with “no preference” referent). Linear and logistic models, accommodating the HINTS survey design and adjusting for demographics, were computed.

Results. Respondents not accessing the internet found it more difficult to understand medical statistics (M=2.44) than those in the other two groups (accessing internet, M=2.77; iHISB, M=2.82). Preferences for probabilities expressed as words (Wald χ2[2]=65.42, p<0.0001) and numbers (Wald χ2[2]=49.55, p<0.0001) varied significantly across the three-level internet measure. Most respondents not accessing the internet (45.7% vs. 24.4% accessing and 29.9% iHISB) preferred probabilities expressed in words while those engaging in iHISB preferred numbers (54.3% vs. 18.0% not accessing and 27.7% accessing). Conclusions. The findings illustrate prominent differences in preferences for how outcome probabilities in medical information are expressed as a function of accessing the internet and iHISB.

Learning Objectives:
To discuss the role numeracy plays in internet health-information seeking behaviors. To illustrate, using data from a national cross-sectional study, that those whom access the internet, and in particular, those with access that actively seek health information online, are differentiated from those without access in their understanding of medical information presented in a quantitative format. Apply enhanced understanding of links between accessing the internet and engaging in internet health-information seeking behaviors (iHISB) in the tailoring and targeting of health promotion and disease prevention intervention models.

Keywords: Internet, Health Literacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have taught, researched, and published in the area extensively.
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.