Online Program

Reach of family health information within familial social networks of older adults: The importance of role modeling

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sato Ashida, PhD, Community & Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Ellen Schafer, MPH, Community & Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Prior knowledge of family health history (FHH) information facilitates the development of individualized disease risk assessments and ultimately prevention of chronic diseases. However, overall FHH knowledge remains low among the U.S. public. FHH can only be evaluated and disseminated within familial contexts, thus, older adults play a critical role in increasing this knowledge among younger generations. Familial social contexts also shape individuals' perceptions and behaviors. The purpose of this research is to understand the characteristics of social networks (e.g., role models, relationship quality) associated with FHH sharing among older adults. Older adults (ages 60+) at 3 senior centers in Memphis, TN, were interviewed about their familial social networks. Among the 1,043 network members identified by 110 participants, the reach of FHH information was small with only 354 (34%) ever receiving it from the participants. Respondents who had at least one parent sharing FHH with them (β=0.19, p=0.05) and more network members exchanging reciprocal emotional support (β=0.21, p=0.03), reported sharing FHH with a higher proportion of network members. Higher perceived familiarity with own FHH (β=0.26, p=0.01) and cancer diagnosis (β=0.18, p=0.05) also were related to the sharing of FHH information with family.

Having a role model (a parent sharing FHH) may influence older adults to share this information with other family members. Future interventions to increase FHH knowledge can inform older adults, especially those with chronic conditions, about the importance of sharing FHH in protecting the health of their family, and their role in modeling FHH communication behavior to future generations.

Learning Areas:

Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the importance of FHH information in chronic disease prevention and understand the role of older adults in increasing FHH knowledge within family. Identify psychological and social factors associated with the extent to which older adults share family health information with their family members. Discuss potential strategies to facilitate communication of family health history information among older adults.

Keyword(s): Communication, Family Involvement

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been conducting social network research and have published findings related to the roles of social networks and relationships on health and health-related behaviors.
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.