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      Parents Seeking Health-Related Information on the Internet: Cross-Sectional Study

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          Abstract

          Background

          The Internet represents an increasingly common source of health-related information, and it has facilitated a wide range of interactions between people and the health care delivery system.

          Objective

          To establish the extent of Internet access and use to gather information about health topics and the potential implications to health care among the adult population in Calabria region, Italy.

          Methods

          This cross-sectional study was conducted from April to June 2012. The sample consisted of 1544 adults aged ≥18 years selected among parents of public school students in the geographic area of Catanzaro in southern Italy. A 2-stage sample design was planned. A letter summarizing the purpose of the study, an informed consent form, and a questionnaire were given to selected student to deliver to their parents. The final survey was formulated in 5 sections: (1) sociodemographic characteristics, (2) information about chronic diseases and main sources of health care information, (3) information about Internet use, (4) data about the effects of using the Internet to search for health information, and (5) knowledge and use of social networks.

          Results

          A total of 1039 parents completed the questionnaire, with a response rate equivalent to 67.29%. Regarding health-related information types, 84.7% of respondents used the Internet to search for their own medical conditions or those of family members or relatives, 40.7% of parents reported looking for diet, body weight, or physical activity information, 29.6% searched for vaccines, 28.5% for screening programs, and 16.5% for smoking cessation tools and products. The results of the multiple logistic regression analysis showed that parents who looked for health-related information on the Internet were more likely to be female (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.05-2.25), with a high school diploma (OR 1.69, 95% CI 1.02-2.81) or college degree (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.21-3.78), younger aged (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.94-0.99), with chronic conditions (OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.17-3.19), not satisfied with their general practitioner’s health-related information (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.38-0.97), but satisfied with information from scientific journals (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.33-2.98).

          Conclusions

          Our analyses provide important insights into Internet use and health information–seeking behaviors of the Italian population and contribute to the evidence base for health communication planning. Health and public health professionals should educate the public about acquiring health information online and how to critically appraise it, and provide tools to navigate to the highest-quality information. The challenge to public health practice is to facilitate the health-promoting use of the Web among consumers in conjunction with their health care providers.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication

          Background Given the rapid changes in the communication landscape brought about by participative Internet use and social media, it is important to develop a better understanding of these technologies and their impact on health communication. The first step in this effort is to identify the characteristics of current social media users. Up-to-date reporting of current social media use will help monitor the growth of social media and inform health promotion/communication efforts aiming to effectively utilize social media. Objective The purpose of the study is to identify the sociodemographic and health-related factors associated with current adult social media users in the United States. Methods Data came from the 2007 iteration of the Health Information National Trends Study (HINTS, N = 7674). HINTS is a nationally representative cross-sectional survey on health-related communication trends and practices. Survey respondents who reported having accessed the Internet (N = 5078) were asked whether, over the past year, they had (1) participated in an online support group, (2) written in a blog, (3) visited a social networking site. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify predictors of each type of social media use. Results Approximately 69% of US adults reported having access to the Internet in 2007. Among Internet users, 5% participated in an online support group, 7% reported blogging, and 23% used a social networking site. Multivariate analysis found that younger age was the only significant predictor of blogging and social networking site participation; a statistically significant linear relationship was observed, with younger categories reporting more frequent use. Younger age, poorer subjective health, and a personal cancer experience predicted support group participation. In general, social media are penetrating the US population independent of education, race/ethnicity, or health care access. Conclusions Recent growth of social media is not uniformly distributed across age groups; therefore, health communication programs utilizing social media must first consider the age of the targeted population to help ensure that messages reach the intended audience. While racial/ethnic and health status–related disparities exist in Internet access, among those with Internet access, these characteristics do not affect social media use. This finding suggests that the new technologies, represented by social media, may be changing the communication pattern throughout the United States.
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            Influences, usage, and outcomes of Internet health information searching: multivariate results from the Pew surveys.

             Gregory Rice (2005)
            This paper provides results from seven major nationally representative datasets (two in detail) from the Pew Internet and American Life Project to answer two primary questions: (1) what influences people to seek online health information and (2) what influences their perceived outcomes from having access to this information? Cross-tabulations, logistic regressions, and multidimensional scaling are applied to these survey datasets. The strongest and most consistent influences on ever, or more frequently, using the Internet to search for health information were sex (female), employment (not fulltime), engaging in more other Internet activities, more specific health reasons (diagnosed with new health problem, ongoing medical condition, prescribed new medication or treatment), and helping another deal with health issues. Internet health seeking is consistently similar to general Internet activities such as email, news, weather, and sometimes hobbies. A variety of outcomes from or positive assessments of searching for Internet health information are predicted most strongly by sex (female), engaging in other Internet activities, Internet health information seeking including more frequent health seeking, more specific health reasons, belonging to an online support group sharing health interests, and helping another deal with an illness or major health condition.
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              eHealth Trends in Europe 2005-2007: A Population-Based Survey

              Background In the last decade, the number of Internet users worldwide has dramatically increased. People are using the Internet for various health-related purposes. It is important to monitor such use as it may have an impact on the individual’s health and behavior, patient-practitioner roles, and on general health care provision. Objectives This study investigates trends and patterns of European health-related Internet use over a period of 18 months. The main study objective was to estimate the change in the proportion of the population using the Internet for health purposes, and the importance of the Internet as a source of health information compared to more traditional sources. Methods The survey data were collected through computer-assisted telephone interviews. A representative sample (N = 14,956) from seven European countries has been used: Denmark, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Portugal. The European eHealth Consumer Trends Survey was first conducted in October-November 2005 and repeated in April-May 2007. In addition to providing background information, respondents were asked to rate the importance of various sources of health information. They were also queried as to the frequency of different online activities related to health and illness and the effects of such use on their disposition. Results The percentage of the population that has used the Internet for health purposes increased from an estimated 42.3% (95% CI [Confidence Interval] 41.3 - 43.3) in 2005 to an estimated 52.2% (95% CI 51.3 - 53.2) in 2007. Significant growth in the use of the Internet for health purposes was found in all the seven countries. Young women are the most active Internet health users. The importance of the Internet as a source of health information has increased. In 2007, the Internet was perceived as an important source of health information by an estimated 46.8% (95% CI 45.7 - 47.9) of the population, a significant increase of 6.5 % (95% CI 4.9 - 8.1) from 2005. The importance of all the traditional health information channels has either decreased or remained the same. An estimated 22.7% (95% CI 21.7 - 23.6) are using it for more interactive services than just reading health information. Conclusion The Internet is increasingly being used as a source of health information by the European population, and its perceived importance is rising. Use of the Internet for health purposes is growing in all age groups and for both men and women, with especially strong growth among young women. We see that experienced Internet health users are also using the Internet as an active communication channel, both for reaching health professionals and for communicating with peers.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                J Med Internet Res
                JMIR
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications Inc. (Toronto, Canada )
                1439-4456
                1438-8871
                September 2013
                18 September 2013
                : 15
                : 9
                Affiliations
                1Medical School Department of Health Sciences University of Catanzaro “Magna Græcia” CatanzaroItaly
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Maria Pavia pavia@ 123456unicz.it
                Article
                v15i9e204
                10.2196/jmir.2752
                3785974
                24047937
                ©Aida Bianco, Rossella Zucco, Carmelo Giuseppe A Nobile, Claudia Pileggi, Maria Pavia. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 18.09.2013.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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