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INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. INTRODUCTION
  3. CONCLUSION
  4. REFERENCES

As digital technology permeates contemporary life, questions about the ways in which people access digital resources continue to be raised. As the Pew studies show, health information remains a topic frequently sought on the Internet, but few who seek health information check the credibility or authority of the information they find (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information.aspx). More important from a public health perspective, is that finding information—even good information—is not sufficient to change behavior (Elder, Ayala, & Harris, 1999; Elbel, Kersh, Brescoll, & Dixon, 2009).

Building on a previous study of Internet connectivity among patients at a minority urban health center (Zach, Dalrymple, Rogers, 2009), we present preliminary results from a study of expectant parents attending a pre-natal program in a low-income, minority urban neighborhood. Our prior work showed that most patients at the Health Center have access to the Internet through cell phones, home computers, or both, but do not use them to seek health information. The findings suggested that while the population at the health center did not differ greatly from the population of the Pew studies in terms of Internet access (72% of our study respondents reported having Internet access compared with 77% reported by the 2009 Pew study), it did differ significantly in terms of use of the Internet to look for health information (only 21% of our study respondents looked for health information compared with 61% of the general population). This raises the question of whether the digital divide exists not at the level of information access, but rather at the level of information use.

With support from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Mid-Atlantic Region, the current research project seeks to understand more about the nature of health information seeking behavior among this population. We believe that the period of pregnancy is a “teachable moment” in the lives of these health center patients, and the short-term goal of the project is to study the effects of providing targeted text messages to this population related to their educational experiences in the Center's pre-natal program. The long-term goal of this research is to determine if receiving targeted messages encourages users to seek health information on the Internet and ultimately to make better health choices.

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. INTRODUCTION
  3. CONCLUSION
  4. REFERENCES

The study intervention augments an existing text messaging pre-natal program (text4baby) by adding one additional message per week that contains a link to a website selected for its relevance to the topics presented in the pre-natal group (Centering Pregnancy). Three separate pre-natal groups consisting of <10 pregnant women of approximately the same gestational stage are enrolled in the text messaging program. At monthly intervals the participants complete a brief questionnaire to determine whether they viewed the website, whether they recalled what it said, and whether they found that the information was useful. In addition, focus groups are being conducted to investigate the participants' attitudes toward seeking health information on the Internet and to determine ways in which the program could be improved. Preliminary results (months 1 through 4) of the study will be presented.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. INTRODUCTION
  3. CONCLUSION
  4. REFERENCES
  • Elbel, B., Kersh, R., Brescoll, V.L., Dixon, L.B. (2009). Calorie labeling and food choices: a first look at the effects on low-income people in New York City. Health Affairs, 28 (6) 111021.
  • Elder, J.P., Ayala, G.X., Harris, S. (1999). Theories and intervention approaches to health-behavior change in primary care. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 17 (4), 275284.
  • Zach, L., Rogers, M., and Dalrymple, P. (2009, Nov). Investigating the Impact of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) on the Delivery of Health Care Information to Vulnerable Populations. Poster Presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology SIG-SI workshop, Vancouver, Canada.