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J Med Internet Res. 2001 Oct-Dec;3(4):E31.

Use of the internet as a resource for consumer health information: results of the second osteopathic survey of health care in America (OSTEOSURV-II).

Author information

  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center. 3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard. Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA. jlicciar@hsc.unt.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The Internet offers consumers unparalleled opportunities to acquire health information. The emergence of the Internet, rather than more-traditional sources, for obtaining health information is worthy of ongoing surveillance, including identification of the factors associated with using the Internet for this purpose.

OBJECTIVES:

To measure the prevalence of Internet use as a mechanism for obtaining health information in the United States; to compare such Internet use with newspapers or magazines, radio, and television; and to identify sociodemographic factors associated with using the Internet for acquiring health information.

METHODS:

Data were acquired from the Second Osteopathic Survey of Health Care in America (OSTEOSURV-II), a national telephone survey using random-digit dialing within the United States during 2000. The target population consisted of adult, noninstitutionalized, household members. As part of the survey, data were collected on: facility with the Internet, sources of health information, and sociodemographic characteristics. Multivariate analysis was used to identify factors associated with acquiring health information on the Internet.

RESULTS:

A total of 499 (64% response rate) respondents participated in the survey. With the exception of an overrepresentation of women (66%), respondents were generally similar to national referents. Fifty percent of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that they felt comfortable using the Internet as a health information resource. The prevalence rates of using the health information sources were: newspapers or magazines, 69%; radio, 30%; television, 56%; and the Internet, 32%. After adjusting for potential confounders, older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to use newspapers or magazines and television to acquire health information, but less likely to use the Internet. Higher education was associated with greater use of newspapers or magazines and the Internet as health information sources. Internet use was lower in rural than urban or suburban areas.

CONCLUSIONS:

The Internet has already surpassed radio as a source of health information but still lags substantially behind print media and television. Significant barriers to acquiring health information on the Internet remain among persons 60 years of age or older, those with 12 or fewer years of education, and those residing in rural areas. Stronger efforts are needed to ensure access to and facility with the Internet among all segments of the population. This includes user-friendly access for older persons with visual or other functional impairments, providing low-literacy Web sites, and expanding Internet infrastructure to reach all areas of the United States.

PMID:
11772546
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1761915
Free PMC Article
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