200855 Internet as a Source for Health Information: User Assessments of Utility and Quality

Monday, November 9, 2009

James B. Weaver III, PhD MPH , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Stephanie Sargent Weaver, PhD, MPH , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Darren Mays, PhD MPH , National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Objectives. The internet offers considerable promise as a health promotion and education tool. However, the fact that some online health information (OHI) may be inaccurate – combined with questions about consumers' abilities to recognize erroneous OHI – remains troublesome. This study explores this issue by comparing assessments of OHI reported by internet users either engaged in internet health-information seeking behaviors (iHISB) or not.

Methods. Among internet users, assessments of iHISB (internet as the primary source for health information; dichotomously coded), the effort required to access OHI and concerns about OHI quality (both “strongly disagree” [1] to “strongly agree” [4]), and demographics were drawn from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). iHISB use by respondent sex ANCOVA models, accommodating the HINTS survey design and adjusting for demographics, were computed.

Results. Individuals using the internet as the primary source for health information (n=2,714), compared with internet users not engaged in iHISB (n=1,027), considered accessing health information significantly easier (iHISB users, M=3.06, non-users, M=3.15; MD=0.09 CI 0.02-0.16). They also expressed greater concern about the quality of OHI (iHISB users, M=3.38, non-users, M=3.29; MD=0.09 CI 0.01-0.17), however. Independent of iHISB, men (n=1,370; M=3.39) were more concerned about OHI quality than women (n=2,371; M=3.28; MD=0.10 CI 0.02-0.18).

Conclusions. Experience with online health information, these findings suggest, frames judgments of OHI uniquely. Internet users engaged in iHISB appear to recognize the convenience of OHI while also acknowledging some skepticism about the quality of such information. These considerations should inform future health communication tailoring and targeting endeavors.

Learning Objectives:
To discuss the idea, articulated by others, that health information disseminated via the internet may be “inaccurate, erroneous, misleading, or fraudulent” and may pose “a threat to public health in general.” To describe how assessments of internet health information utility (i.e., convenience) and quality may encapsulate important motives for internet health information-seeking behaviors. To explain how an enhanced understanding of motives underlying internet health information-seeking behaviors should be used to better inform the targeting and tailoring of health promotion and disease prevention endeavors.

Keywords: Internet, Health Information

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

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